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Cordell Hull, Sycamore Shoals State Parks Honored for Interpretation

Friday, January 31, 2020 | 08:52am

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has honored Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park in Byrdstown and Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton as co-winners of the 2019 Excellence in Interpretation Award for Tennessee State Parks.

Parks nominated in the interpretation category are those that have demonstrated the ability to provide high quality and varied interpretive activities. Such activities may include but are not limited to presentations, guided hikes, workshops, living history, games, weekly, monthly and annual schedule of events, special events, interpretive panels, exhibits, interpretive trail guides, and more.

“Many of our visitors find educational value in the events at our parks,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of TDEC, said. “We are proud of the work the staff at both Cordell Hull Birthplace and Sycamore Shoals do to bring history to life. Both parks are deserving of this honor, so we are pleased to have co-winners of this award.” 

With a full-time staff of only two people, plus seasonal weekend assistance, Cordell Hull State Park conducted 268 programs with 2,264 participants. The programs focused on Cordell Hull’s life, work, heritage and history and folkways of the 1870s Upper Cumberland. Original programs included fiddle lessons, Appalachian dance workshops, Pioneer Camp (a second Junior Ranger camp with 1870s pioneer theme), basket weaving, pit-fire pottery, and spinning, alongside traditional programs such as caving, lantern hikes and wildflower hikes. The park held a highly successful Apple Butter Day and assisted in the women’s suffrage program at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall.

Throughout the year, Sycamore Shoals State Park presented approximately 711 quality interpretive programs and experiences supporting education, preservation, conservation of historic places, stories of national significance, and natural features of the park at Sycamore Shoals, Fort Watauga, Carter Mansion and Sabine Hill. In conjunction with the Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Park, the park produces an annual Special Events Guide that is printed in the fall for the upcoming year as well as a detailed monthly events calendar.

Last year, Sycamore Shoals presented 18 large scale special events including the Carter Mansion Celebration, Siege of Ft. Watauga, Native American Festival and the 41st year Liberty!-TN official outdoor drama, WWII D-Day commemorative, and the Overmountain Victory Trail Celebration. The park had school programming for several schools both on-site and off-site. The park also conducts regular historic house tours of Sabine Hill and the Carter Mansion. The park also used the gift shop as an interpretive tool, redesigning it as “Carter’s Store.”   

The Tennessee State Park Awards were created to recognize excellent work in the parks and are 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 a parks management conference. Categories for the awards include facilities management, innovation, interpretation, resource management, and sustainability.