South Cumberland State Park staff receive recognition in Tennessee’s Go Green With Us initiative. L-R, Robin Peeler, Mike Robertson, Bill Knapp, George Shinn, Brock Hill, Kelsey Davis. (Photo: Contributed)

Twenty-six Tennessee State Parks have been recognized by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for sustainable concepts as part of the state’s ‘Go Green With Us’ initiative.

Parks that received the highest honors include Burgess Falls State Park, Henry Horton State Park and Montgomery Bell State Park.

“Tennessee State Parks are leading the way across the nation in the first robust sustainability program of its kind,” said TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill. “Sustainable measures instituted at our parks help create the cohesive and exceptional experience our visitors are looking for, all the while reducing operating expenses and saving taxpayer dollars.”

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The Go Green With Us program recognizes Tennessee State Parks that have integrated sustainable practices into park management and operations. The program launched in 2015 as a recycling initiative at all 56 state parks and evolved into a more comprehensive initiative that tackles all aspects of park management, from energy efficiency to food service to visitor programming.

Parks were ranked on a tiered system based on points earned for various sustainable management practices, similar to the LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) certification model for sustainable buildings.

Initiatives at gold-level winner Burgess Falls State Park include management of a 20,000 sq. ft. pollinator garden, water aerators on all faucets and low-flow toilets, and a children’s educational program on recycling. Montgomery Bell was named the 2017 Sustainable Park of the Year by TDEC for its food waste reduction efforts, which saves the park nearly $4,000 per year on diverted solid waste fees. Henry Horton also composts food from its on-site restaurant and grows fresh produce served in its restaurant.

The other 23 state parks recognized have instituted concepts such as energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, controlled burns to reduce invasive plant growth, and ‘Leave No Trace’ principles in visitor programming. Parks with golf courses are internationally recognized by the Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program and Groundwater Guardian Green program.

State parks in and near Southeast Tennessee that have been recognized include South Cumberland State Park and Rock Island State Park, both at the Silver level, and Fort Loudoun State Historic Park, Harrison Bay State Park, Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, and Tims Ford State Park, at the Bronze level.

Learn more about the Go Green With Us program and see what each park involved is doing here.

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