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Dunbar Cave State Park Named State Park of the Year

Thursday, January 30, 2020 | 09:46am

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has recognized Dunbar Cave State Park in Clarksville as the 2019 Tennessee State Park of the Year.

Dunbar Cave State Park, which encompasses 144 acres, is a prehistoric site as part of the Eastern Woodlands. The cave has been used for thousands of years and is the site of significant prehistoric Mississippian Native American cave art dating to the 14th century.

“Dunbar Cave State Park represents some of the highest qualities of our state parks system,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of TDEC, said. “It takes a lot to stand out among the work of our 56 state parks, and we are proud of the work that has been done at Dunbar Cave. The staff is most worthy of this recognition.”

Parks considered for the Park of the Year honor are those that have demonstrated excellence in the areas of innovation, sustainability, interpretation, resource management and facility management as well as fiscally responsible operation. 

Dunbar Cave State Park has been in transformation over the last two years, all to fulfill its mission of preserving, protecting, and interpreting prehistoric Mississippian cave art and indigenous people’s use of the cave. Cave tours have been redeveloped to be more engaging.

Research performed by the park staff has resulted in several new discoveries of Mississippian art and rare Cherokee syllabary. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee has partnered with the park to better tell the stories and to help fill out interpretation. The redeveloped cave tour system has been successful. Last season tour offerings were four times per day, seven days per week.

The Tennessee State Park Awards were created to recognize excellent work in the parks and is overseen by the Park Area Managers. Parks and Conservation directors vote on the awards, which are presented annually in January at an award ceremony during the Park Management Conference.