NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) has announced that, in support of Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order implementing a “stay at home” policy, all state parks across the state will be closed through April 14.
Specifically, a statement from Tennessee State Parks mentions overnight accommodations — such as cabins, lodges and group facilities — with refunds offered for reservations through April 14; public spaces such as visitor centers, picnic shelters, playgrounds and restrooms; and event cancelations.
“We decided to close the parks in support of Governor Lee’s Executive Order 23,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “The health and safety of Tennessee citizens is all of our top priority right now.”
The release does not specifically mention trails and other resources within state parks. However, the statement says: “This is a complete closure of facilities and access to all Tennessee State Parks and designated state natural areas.”
The closures will include Norris Dam State Park in Campbell County, Frozen Head State Park in Morgan County, Pickett State Park in Pickett County, and Colditz Cove State Natural Area in Fentress County.
Not impacted by the latest announcement is the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, which is federal and under the management of the National Park Service.
Also not impacted are wildlife management areas, like the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area in Scott County. WMAs are state lands that fall under the management of a separate agency.
The move by TDEC will be viewed as the latest contradiction in Tennessee’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Lee’s Executive Order 22 lists recreation areas as essential, and outdoors recreation as an essential activity.
With the closure of state parks, there will be few public recreation areas remaining open across the state. The Tennessee Valley Authority had already closed its recreation areas. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has also closed.