From the very start of efforts to protect Rocky Fork, there was hope that at least a portion of this scenic area of Unicoi County would become a state park or national recreation area.
Now comes word Tennessee’s newest state park will be in Unicoi County. Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Rocky Fork State Park will be comprised of some 2,000 acres of the 22,000-acre tract that so many have worked very hard to preserve for future generations. We think Haslam put it best last week when he said Rocky Fork is an “incredible story about how things can and should work.” He’s right.
From the start, work to protect Rocky Fork from development has been a collaborative effort. Kudos should go to officials from the Conservation Fund, conservationists like David Ramsey and elected leaders like U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who all helped to spearhead this project. Thanks to them, this scenic area — of which 60 percent is located in Unicoi County — will remain unspoiled. That means local residents will be able to continue enjoy fishing, hiking and mountain biking in Rocky Fork.
It’s not a stretch to describe the property as priceless in terms of its beauty and wildlife. It’s the largest single unprotected tract in the entire Southern Appalachian corridor and is home to Appalachian brook trout and habitat for six salamander species that aren’t found even in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Preserving these scenic vistas is important, not just to spur tourism and protect wildlife, but to nourish and inspire the human soul. And Rocky Fork State Park will become Tennessee’s highest-altitude state park. We have no doubt its beautiful scenery will attract visitors from all over the state and nation.