NASHVILLE, TENN., (WKRN) — Thousands are expected back at Tennessee state parks following a record year.
According to the Department of Environment and Conservation, state parks generated $1.84 billion in economic impact in 2020, a year marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tennessee welcomed 34.7 million visits in 2020. Despite the coronavirus upending thousands of lives, now there’s little sign of an ongoing pandemic.
As deaths, cases, and hospitalizations drop, more people are returning to state parks.
“It hasn’t been too busy during the week, it’s getting a little bit busier, I think, now that schools out,” said Holly Sortomme, who is visiting family.
Many were at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown Nashville where foot traffic is expected to increase in the days ahead.
“It still to me doesn’t look pre-pandemic, it’s still way less crowded — which I can appreciate, I’m happy that people are still taking cautions and not get too overcrowded,” Sortomme said.
A spokesperson for Tennessee State Parks released a statement to News 2 saying:
“With top-notch facilities and outdoor experiences, many visitors are seeking out Tennessee State Parks. We encourage guests to check our website before heading out and to make reservations well in advance. While some campgrounds are seeing full occupancy on weekends, many of our campgrounds across the state have vacancies, especially on weekdays. In addition to 36 campgrounds, Tennessee State Parks also offers more than 300 cabins and four Lodges for a variety of overnight experiences. With no entrance fees and a discount for state residents on overnight accommodations, we encourage Tennesseans to continue exploring our parks this summer while recreating responsibly.”
Visitors say busy parks are a welcomed sight.
“A lot of people are out now, no mask anywhere it feels like we’re wide open again,” said Darrell McCutcheon, a tourist from Texas.