Harrison Bay State Park tallies second-place voting in Tennessee parks' donation drive mid-month

Donation drive marks halfway point in donation voting

Staff file photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt / Tami and Alan Fowler, of Harrison, Tenn., walk their dog in Harrison Bay State Park. Mr. Fowler said he has been walking to recuperate from a back surgery.
Staff file photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt / Tami and Alan Fowler, of Harrison, Tenn., walk their dog in Harrison Bay State Park. Mr. Fowler said he has been walking to recuperate from a back surgery.

Chattanooga's Harrison Bay State Park is in second place in the second year of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation state parks donation campaign asking people to give $1 per vote for their favorite state park in a fundraiser that goes through the end of the month.

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, $37 separated Harrison Bay from campaign-leading Pickett Civilian Conservation Corps Memorial State Park in Fentress County, which stands at $3,647, while the park in Chattanooga stood just below at $3,610, according to results so far in the "My TN State Park Fundraiser."

Cindy Morgan, a board member of the Friends of Harrison Bay State Park group, was a little surprised with the park's mid-point tally, but not with people showing their love.

"I think us being in second place just goes to show the love people have for our state park locally," Morgan said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "That's great because the more people we can get involved with the state park at Harrison Bay, I think it benefits everybody."

State officials think so, too.

"We are seeing an incredible amount of support for the second year in a row," state parks' spokesperson Kim Schofinski said Tuesday in an email. "It's clear that people want to show support for their favorite state park."

(READ MORE: Camping records set at Tennessee State Parks in 2020 as people 'stay home' outdoors)

Compared to the same point last year in the campaign's inaugural year, donations are more than $8,100 higher overall, while the number of donors dropped by 475, according to Schofinski. The shift appears to show larger donations than the single-vote-getting dollar.

Cast your vote

Totals from Tuesday showed more than 800 people voted with their dollars, raising more than $38,000 for all 56 state parks, according to state totals. Individual park donations ranged from $35 to $3,647.

"This fundraiser sprang from the surge of visitors to Tennessee State Parks at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic," Schofinski said. "It was a way to show support for the park that 'kept them going' in 2020."

The idea behind the fund drive remains simple: Every dollar donated represents a vote to support a favorite state park, officials said.


56: Unique state parks5: Lodges36: Campgrounds372: Cabins80+: WaterfallsSource: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

"Last year, nearly 3,000 donations came in to support every state park in Tennessee with more than $96,000 donated," Schofinski said. "Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville brought in the most donations overall, receiving over $14,000 in support. Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg came in second, and Seven Islands State Park in Kodak came in third."

Last year, Harrison Bay stood at No. 7 in the state with $2,786, followed by South Cumberland at $2,660, records show. Fall Creek Falls in 2021 was down at No. 17 with $1,672, and Tims Ford was at No. 24 when voting donations were totaled.

State parks are grouped in the voting by annual visitation.

In Southeast Tennessee, second-ranked Harrison Bay, Fall Creek Falls, Tims Ford and Hiwassee-Ocoee state parks are in the largest group - Group 1 with 750,000 annual visitors or more - with Fall Creek Falls ranking No. 6, followed by Tims Ford at No. 9 and Hiwassee Ocoee at No. 16 among 18 parks in the group.

(READ MORE: Tennessee Gov. Lee opens new $40.3 million Lodge Fall Creek Falls)

The next group - Group 2 with 350,000-750,000 annual visitors - contains Southeast Tennessee's South Cumberland and Booker T. Washington state parks that by Tuesday had notched the No. 4 and No. 11 spots, respectively, among 19 parks in that group.

Southeast Tennessee has only one in the smallest group - Group 3 with fewer than 350,000 annual visitors - and that is Red Clay State Park in Bradley County near the Georgia state line, which comes in at No. 12 of the 19 parks in that group.

Donations are sought in part because Tennessee is one of only seven states across the U.S. that provide free access to public parks, according to officials.

Donation Quick Facts

— Each park you donate to retains 100% of the funds you give.— Donations help improve the park/visitor experience in ways otherwise not budgeted.— More than half of Tennessee’s parks — 31 of 56 — have received less than $300 through My TN State ParkSource: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

"Part of the reasoning is that we believe people should have the chance to voluntarily support the parks they love," the Tennessee State Parks voting page states.

(READ MORE: These four state parks near Chattanooga are perfect for sunny Saturdays)

The funds will "go toward projects identified by park staff that seek to improve the visitor experience and are either not budgeted for the year or fall outside a park's traditional budget," Schofinski said. "Specific items on the wish lists of some parks include adding benches, equipment for an aviary, panels for a museum exhibit and a solar telescope.

Dana M. Teasley, a member of the Friends of the Hiwassee-Ocoee State Park group and a fundraiser for the park, said her favorite features of her favorite park are the Appalachian Mountains surrounding the two East Tennessee rivers. Teasley admits she didn't cast a "vote," but she stays involved in other fundraising activities for the park and has also assisted Red Clay State Park in Bradley County to obtain grant funding for educational programs, she said Tuesday in a social media message.

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

Though her current park love is in Southeast Tennessee, Teasley said she also is a fan of Big Hill Pond State Park in West Tennessee of which she has fond childhood memories "because Travis McNatt - [namesake of] Travis McNatt Lake - was my uncle and we shared a birthday," she said. "I remember as a child him forming the lake and watched as it was being filled with water. It's just a fond memory, but I haven't visited Big Hill in a long time."

The campaign continues through Jan. 31.

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


Rankings among parks with more than 750,000 annual visitors:1. Harrison Bay $3,6102. Paris Landing $1,6623. Cumberland Mountain $1,4424. Radnor Lake $9195. Roane Mountain $8136. Fall Creek Falls $5877. Nathan Bedord Forrest $4938. Meeman-Shelby $4519. Tims Ford $40010. Montgomery Bell $39411. Pickwick Landing $36612. Reelfoot Lake $30613. Long Hunter $30114. Cedars of Lebanon $22015. Big Ridge $18616. Hiwassee Ocoee $16617. Warrior’s Path $15618. Harpeth River $125Jan. 18 rankings among parks with 350,000-750,000 annual visitors:1. Norris Dam $1,6642. Rock Island $1,5803. Sgt. Alvin C. York $1,4204. South Cumberland $1,1555. Bledsoe Creek $8116. David Crockett $7857. Panther Creek $7118. Standing Stone $6209. Henry Horton $44010. Natchez Trace $37711. Booker T. Washington $29612. Dunbar Cave $26013. Old Stone Fort $21614. David Crockett Birthplace $18015. Chickasaw $16016. T.O. Fuller $11517. Fort Pillow $10518. Cove Lake $8219. Indian Mountain $50Jan. 18 rankings among parks with less than $350,000 annual visitors:1. Pickett $3,6472. Mousetail Landing $2,4253. Frozen Head $1,3994. Seven Islands $1,3265. Johnsonville $1,0106. Rocky Fork $9107. Fort Loudoun $7318. Cordell Hull Birthplace $4909. Sycamore Shoals $43010. Pinson Mounts $31011. Edgard Evins $30512. Red Clay $20613. Port Royal $18514. Burgess Falls $18515. Big Hill Pond $17016. Cumberland Trail $17017. Bicentennial Mall $16918. Big Cypress Tree $13019. Cummins Falls $125Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as of 9 a.m. Jan. 18

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