Park officials want Tennesseans to vacation locally to save on expenses

Park officials want Tennesseans to vacation locally to save on expenses

By: AP

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — Looking to compensate for declining attendance, state officials are marketing state parks to locals looking for cheaper vacation destinations. “I think the fuel prices are going to affect our out-of-state travelers coming to see us this year,” said Murray Crow, the state’s regional park manager. Instead of a long-distance trip to the beach, park officials want Tennesseans to consider a cool mountain stream. Travelers can check out a new feature on the state park Web site called, “Less than One Tank Trips.” “Economically, I think we’re a really good bargain, especially for individuals within a 50- or 100-radius of a park,” Crow said. Tennessee has 53 state parks, including six resort parks, that include inns, cabins, restaurants and golf. Records show that attendance at the resort parks — Fall Creek Falls, Henry Horton, Montgomery Bell, Natchez Trace, Pickwick Landing and Paris Landing — were low but steady as gas prices rose over the last two years. Park manager Jim Hall at Fall Creek Falls, about 60 miles from Chattanooga, said he noticed a bit of a difference in visitors over the Memorial Day weekend, but said they stayed busy. “Just driving through looking at license plates, I did observe fewer out-of-state and more Tennessee,” he said. “Every parking place was full. The park was very active and we had a lot of folks over the holiday.” Fall Creek Falls pumped $1.8 million into renovations last year designed to increase recreational vehicle attendance, including higher-capacity electrical hookups, added sewer hookups, new bathhouses. Hall said the improvement could attract more people, but given the high price of gas, it’s still a guessing game. “Memorial Day, the Fourth of July are probably going to be busy, regardless,” he said. “The proof will be what the visitation looks like on a nonholiday, regular summer weekend outing.” Parks spokeswoman Tammy Heise said other factors, such as a wet spring this year, could explain a dip in inn occupancy or cabin rentals. “Various factors — many of which are not easy to discern — affect park visitation,” Heise said. “It’s too soon to tell exactly what impact high gas prices will have, but we certainly hope to attract visitors who are looking for great vacation values close to home.” ——— Information from: Chatta-nooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com Published in The Messenger 6.16.08

Leave a Comment