The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has ordered the closure of all 56 of Tennessee’s state parks and designated state natural areas in response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The department said this is a complete closure of trails, facilities and access to the parks.
The closure impacts such local parks as Warriors’ Path State Park, Roan Mountain State Park and Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. While much of the parks’ facilities had already been closed in a previous order, people were still allowed to use the trails and outdoor sections.
“We still had a lot of people using our trails,” said Phil Hylen, acting manager of Roan Mountain State Park.
The closure includes the popular trail along the south bank of the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals. Chad Bogart, museum curator assistant at Sycamore Shoals, said the trail was so well used during the past few weeks that it was difficult to maintain social distance. That trail and the rest of the grounds will now be closed to the public for the first half of April.
Hylen said the statewide closure is also affecting other facilities, such as lodges and golf courses.
According to the Tennessee State Parks website, all public spaces (such as visitor centers, shelters, playgrounds, restrooms, trails, etc.) are closed. All park cabins, lodges, group overnight facilities and campgrounds are closed through April 14.
At this time, upcoming reservations between April 15 and April 30 will be honored. Online reservations will remain available for trips with check-in dates after April 30th. All rentable facilities reserved between now and April 14 will be fully refunded, the website said.
Bogart said administrative staff will still report to work.
“We will be answering the phones and keeping an eye on the grounds. We will be mowing and maintaining the property,” Bogart said.