• Atlanta Northcutt

Rock Island State Park Reopened

Updated: May 12

By: Atlanta Northcutt --- Reporter for the Southern Standard

Tennessee State parks are back in bloom just in time for visitors to enjoy the natural splendor of the spring and summer seasons.

Rock Island State Park officially reopened on Friday, April 24 to day-use visitors allowed on the grounds from 7 a.m. to sunset following a month of closure due to COVID-19.

The March 24 shutdown of all Tennessee state parks ordered by Gov. Bill Lee was extended in order to follow federal, state and local efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

All of Rock Island’s park areas, excluding the Foothills Parkway and the Spur, were originally set to remain closed until Monday, April 6.

The park continued to be shut down longer than expected, but was officially reopened on Friday, April 24, along with the majority of other state parks.

“We’re definitely excited to be open and provide our local community with an area to get outside, enjoy nature and stretch their legs, but we hope people will continue to take things seriously and maintain the guidelines set in place so we can remain open to the public,” says Rock Island State Park manager, Damon Graham.

Some state parks throughout Tennessee have not been as lucky as Cummins Falls State Park located near Cookeville, Seven Islands State Birding Park in Knox County and Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County still remain closed until further notice, and others have varying hours.

Once officially reopened, only the hiking trails were allowed to be accessed at Rock Island State Park, but now a variety of outdoor activities are available for park visitors to enjoy.

“Since reopening, we’ve definitely seen a decent amount of people come to the park. However, the weather last weekend wasn’t great,” says Graham. “But with better weather being expected this weekend, we’re anticipating larger crowds.”

“We’re really advising people who visit their local park to follow all CDC guidelines, including having no more than 10 individuals in a group, staying six feet apart from others, even while on hiking trails, and avoiding overcrowded areas,” adds Graham.

On May 1, many of the state parks’ visitor centers, restrooms, playgrounds and other social gathering places opened, as well. Signage throughout the parks will encourage proper social distancing guidelines and provide information about the cleaning standards for particular facilities or spaces.

“On Friday, everything except the campgrounds, cabins and overnight facilities were opened,” says Graham. “Those overnight facilities will only be available to individuals who had made reservations prior to the pandemic shutting everything down. No new reservations are currently being accepted.”

Graham states the park expects to be able to begin accepting new reservations on May 15 depending on how the situation evolves.

For more information, call 931-686-2471 or visit tnstateparks.com/parks/rock-island to view the full list of what is currently open or closed to the public.

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