Chattanooga's Harrison Bay State Park nets second place finish in state park fundraising campaign

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Trinity Smith, left, and her sister Madison, center, kayak with their aunt, Leanne Lipps, at Harrison Bay State Park on Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Harrison, Tenn.
Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Trinity Smith, left, and her sister Madison, center, kayak with their aunt, Leanne Lipps, at Harrison Bay State Park on Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Harrison, Tenn.

Harrison Bay State Park in Chattanooga notched the second-most votes across the state in the "My TN State Park Fundraiser," collecting more than $10,000 in donations followed in the top 10 by South Cumberland State Park headquartered in Grundy County at No. 4.

Harrison Bay with 1,200 acres and 40 miles of Chickamauga Lake shoreline was second in donation voting to 841-acre Paris Landing State Park west of Nashville in Henry County, voting results showed. Paris Landing's final total was $11,602, followed by Harrison Bay at $10,101.

Harrison Bay held fast to the second spot since the mid-point in the campaign. Two weeks in, Harrison Bay trailed then-leader Pickett Civilian Conservation Corps Memorial State Park in Fentress County. Pickett ended up No. 7.

"I'm really impressed with how people have donated to the park," Friends of Harrison Bay State Park board member Cindy Morgan said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

While no plans have been made for the funds, Morgan said the money could help improve features for children's activities and update the park's playground. Morgan also noted work on Harrison Bay's dog park is ongoing and could benefit from some help.

She said ideas for how to use the money are plentiful because more people are visiting.

"To be no larger than our park is, we get so many people there, it's unbelievable the amount of traffic," Morgan said, noting the pandemic left people searching for something to do.

Pandemic-driven park visitors "didn't really realize how much they appreciated the park," she said. "With the pandemic and everything, I think being able to go to the park and get outside and do things, that was such an eye-opener for so many people."

Top 20

Below are the votes — at $1 per vote — for the top 20 Tennessee state parks, ranked by the amount raised in the “My Favorite TN State Park” fundraiser.1. Paris Landing $11,602.2. Harrison Bay $10,101.3. Frozen Head $6,686.4. South Cumberland $5,706.5. Seven Islands $4,807.6. Dunbar Cave $4,320.7. Pickett $4,077.8. Meeman-Shelby $3,892.9. Norris Dam $3,008.50.10. Rock Island $2,660.11. Mousetail Landing $2,595.12. Bledsoe Creek $2,542.80.13. Radnor Lake $2,541.14. Montgomery Bell $2,456.86.15. Cumberland Mountain $2,235.16. Henry Horton $2,126.17. Fort Loudoun $2,000.18. Rig Ridge $1,932.19. Panther Creek $1,856.20. Fall Creek Falls $1,753.Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee State Parks

South Cumberland State Park - which has 30,845 acres in nine locations in Franklin, Grundy, Marion and Sequatchie counties - notched the fourth-most donations in the state with $5,706, just behind 24,000-acre Frozen Head State Park in Morgan County.

On the Cumberland Plateau, the Friends of South Cumberland State Park group already has some ideas for spending this year's donations.

"Thank you so much to everyone who voted with their dollars to make the South Cumberland State Park a winner in this year's contest. We all know our park is tops. Now the rest of the state will know, too," the post on the group's Facebook page reads.

The reference to being a "winner" relates to the South Cumberland's ranking among Tennessee's 19 parks with 350,000-750,000 annual visitors, one of three groups the state used to break down donations by annual visitation to give more parks recognition in the fundraiser.

Winning parks get a plaque featuring the names of their donors, according to state officials.

South Cumberland friends aim to update current facilities and improve access to a popular site.

"This year's donations will help build a new aviary at park headquarters, build a new bridge at Blue Hole in the Grundy Forest and construct a new staircase at Greeter Falls," the group said.

State officials cheered the showing of love.

"Tennesseans love their state parks. We are incredibly grateful for our visitors' support, and we will continue to work tirelessly on their behalf to create memorable experiences," Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy commissioner Jim Bryson said in an emailed statement.

Last year, the top five places went to Cumberland Mountain State Park, Frozen Head State Park, Seven Islands State Birding Park, Big Hill Pond State Park and Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, according to Department of Environment and Conservation spokesperson Kim Schofinski.

Across the rest of Southeast Tennessee in this year's drive, Fall Creek Falls State Park - which just opened its $40 million Lodge Fall Creek Falls after adding a new $2.7 million Visitors Center in 2020 - rang in at No. 20 with $1,753, followed a little more distantly by Tims Ford at No. 37 with $910.18, Hiwassee Ocoee at No. 38 tallied a total of $859, Booker T. Washington at $681 in the No. 44 slot and Red Clay in Bradley County rounds out the region with a total of $548, results show.

(READ MORE: Input sought on $400,000 investment at Booker T. Washington, Harrison Bay state parks)

A total of $111,875 was raised for 56 parks across the state, and no park got less than $500, officials said. One dollar donated equals one vote for a favorite state park giving people a way to invest as they saw fit.

Each park receives 100% of the donated funds administered by park managers to target projects that are either not budgeted for the year or fall outside a park's traditional budget, Schofinski said.

"For example, last year funds from the competition went toward items such as pollinator gardens, fishing equipment for workshops, an outdoor fitness station and equipment and clothing for a living history program," she said.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

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