Three UC parks honored for sustainability practices

Cummins Falls (Photo / Will Price)

Six State parks lead way in “Go Green With Us” program

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has recognized six of the 56 Tennessee State Parks with platinum level status for their performance in environmental sustainability in the state’s “Go Green With Us” program, and half of those platinum level parks are located in the Upper Cumberland region. 

“Our state parks have implemented responsible practices in sustainability, and we are proud of their record in this important effort,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of TDEC, said. “We hope Tennesseans will recognize their achievements and follow the parks’ lead.”

The six parks achieving platinum status are Bicentennial Capitol Mall, Burgess Falls, Cumberland Trail, Cummins Falls, Johnsonville, and Radnor Lake. Twenty parks achieved gold level status, 22 silver and eight bronze. 

All the parks participate in the program, and 34 of the 56 parks improved their status by moving up at least one level. The designations are for the parks’ performance in 2019. Recognition of the parks’ work was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally the annual recognition occurs around Earth Day in April.

Eligible sustainability practices are divided into nine categories including education and outreach, energy efficiency, green offices, habitat and species protection, guest services, maintenance procedures, recycling and waste, transportation and water conservation. The parks are divided into different categories based on facilities at each park.

The 20 state parks across Tennessee recognized for reaching gold level in the program are Big Ridge, Cove Lake, Cumberland Mountain, Dunbar Cave, Fort Loudoun, Frozen Head, Henry Horton, Long Hunter, Montgomery Bell, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Paris Landing, Pinson Mounds, Reelfoot Lake, Roan Mountain, Rock Island, Seven Islands, South Cumberland, Standing Stone, Sycamore Shoals and T.O. Fuller.

Highlights for the state parks in each of the state’s three grand divisions include:

East Tennessee

Beehives have been added to assist pollinators at Seven Islands, Norris Dam, Big Ridge, Frozen Head, Roan Mountain, Warriors Path and Fort Loudoun state parks. Additionally, in Knox County, Seven Islands State Birding Park has created a Wild Yards habitat garden at the entrance of the park to promote native plants.

Fort Loudoun and Roan Mountain also do extensive management to reduce mowing and promote native plants, which both reduces emissions and promotes better ecological health for wildlife and flora. Many parks have become efficient in reusing materials for projects such as Cove Lake in Campbell County which has used down timber to make fences and signs at the park. Several parks including Norris Dam have switched exterior light fixtures to dark sky friendly lighting, which helps to reduce light pollution and improve health and well-being for all species.

Middle Tennessee

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown Nashville has upgraded the entire park to LED lighting to reduce energy usage, as well as created a butterfly garden with native species to promote pollinators. Beehives have been added to assist pollinators at Cummins Falls, Cedars of Lebanon, Bicentennial Capitol Mall, Long Hunter, Montgomery Bell, David Crockett, Henry Horton, South Cumberland, and Tims Ford.

Johnsonville State Historic Park in Humphreys County uses compostable plates, mugs, and utensils at park receptions, and uses solar powered operated gates. Radnor Lake State Park coordinated a river clean–up with Bridgestone to recycle tires. Radnor Lake also utilizes electric mowers and planted native grasslands to promote wildlife habitat and reduce mowing emissions. Henry Horton and Montgomery Bell state parks both use low-flow water fixtures to conserve water and seek alternative ways for park rangers to patrol, such as on foot, horseback, or bike. Several parks such as Dunbar Cave and Long Hunter enforce a no-idling rule that aims to reduce unnecessary fuel emissions.

West Tennessee

The Captain’s Galley restaurant in Pickwick Landing State Park was one of 15 nationally recognized winners for its food waste reduction efforts in the EPA’s Food Recovery challenge for diverting and composting nearly 14 tons of food waste. 

T.O. Fuller in Shelby County and Paris Landing in Henry County both use low-flow water fixtures to conserve water and seek alternative ways for park rangers to patrol. Pinson Mounds State Park established a community flower garden that is helped by local special needs adults and volunteer master gardeners. Several parks such as Reelfoot Lake and Nathan Bedford Forrest state parks enforce a no-idling rule aimed at reducing fuel emissions. Beehives have been added to assist pollinators at Pickwick Landing, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Paris Landing, Pinson Mounds, Reelfoot Lake, Fort Pillow and Meeman-Shelby Forest.

A complete list of recognition levels for all state parks and a description of the Go Green With Us program can be found at

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