NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) recognized Henry Horton State Park in Chapel Hill with the 2017 Award for Excellence in Innovation.
“Henry Horton is a great example of a park that offers high-quality visitor experiences in a cost-effective manner that adds great value to this middle Tennessee community,” said TDEC Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Conservation Brock Hill. “Many of the efforts and practices initiated by park staff have now been adopted and utilized at other state parks across our system.”
In 2017, staff at Henry Horton began offering a wider variety of recreational and cultural programming for visitors. Large-scale festivals – including Duck River Days and Step Back in Time – give locals and visitors alike a glimpse into the historical and ecological highlights of the park. The annual Horton 100 bicycle ride attracts cyclists of all ages and skill levels from across the country to explore the rolling landscape of middle Tennessee from a bike seat while enjoying park amenities. Several adventure-based programs were created, including the Horton Outdoor Survival School and a Girls Outdoor Weekend.
“It’s our goal to offer something for everyone at Henry Horton,” said Park Manager Ryan Jenkins. “From the adventure seeker to the casual outdoorsmen to a family, anyone can come to our park and spend a day enjoying the outdoors.”
Park staff made a concerted effort to keep costs down while improving the grounds and amenities. Many maintenance needs were handled internally, saving an expense for the state and taxpayers, including remodels of the restaurant lobby, restroom facilities, conference rooms, and creation of the Tipped Canoe lounge.
A rarely used volleyball court in the campground area was revitalized into a community fire pit and a nature-based playground. Staff utilized mainly donated and recycled materials to construct a play cabin and other features to give children a safe, contained area to experience nature through free play.
Park staff also further developed their green thumbs. Stemming from a TDEC grant and partner support from the Friends group and the city, the park’s compost operation utilized more than 2,000 lbs. of organic material for landscaping fertilizer. A greenhouse was constructed on site to grow more than 2,500 lbs. of fresh produce to be used in the restaurant. Rainwater collection barrels were installed for irrigation.
The Annual Park Awards of Excellence – which honor five parks annually – were created to recognize exceptional work within Tennessee State Parks. The 2017 award winners were recognized at the Tennessee State Park annual park management conference in January at Montgomery Bell State Park. Parks are nominated by TDEC staff and voted on by Tennessee State Park leadership. Additional 2017 winners include: Cedars of Lebanon State Park (Resource Management), David Crockett Birthplace State Historic Park (Interpretation), Montgomery Bell State Park (Sustainability) and Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park (Park of the Year).
For more information about Henry Horton State Park, visit http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/henry-horton.