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Grand Opening Celebration Held Today for Johnsonville State Historic Park Visitor Center

Friday, May 11, 2012 | 01:17pm
Event Also Commemorated Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary Celebration
 
NEW JOHNSONVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau joined elected officials and members of the community today for a grand opening celebration of the new Johnsonville State Historic Park Visitor Center.
 
The new Visitor Center houses several interpretative displays that detail the rich history of this area.  In addition to welcoming visitors and residents to the park, the new center will serve as a well-deserved reminder of the important role this area played as a supply depot during the Civil War, and in Tennessee’s transportation history – including travel and transport by river, rail and road. 
 
Located approximately three miles from the park’s entrance along Nell Beard Road, the new Visitor Center also accommodates park offices and meeting space. 
 
“This beautiful new Visitor Center shares a number of fascinating stories unique to this area, and will help attract more people to the park and to the surrounding community,” said Martineau.  “The hard work and effort that have gone into this facility, coupled with the ongoing commitment of the Friends of Johnsonville State Historic Park, demonstrate the wonderful support we have from this community.  Today’s grand opening celebration gave us an opportunity to thank our many supporters, while commemorating Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary milestone.”   
 
Some of the unique stories that are chronicled at the new Visitor Center include the Battle of Johnsonville, when the Confederate Cavalry captured a gunboat and destroyed a Union supply depot in an effort to slow Major General William Tecumseh Sherman’s advance through the south. 
 
Other military themes incorporate descriptions of this important supply depot, its camps, the mounted infantry, entrenched artillery, and the fortifications made both before and after the Battle of Johnsonville.
 
Another key account at the new Visitor Center details the African-American Federal soldiers that guarded the Johnsonville supply depot and who would later be thrust toward the Confederate line in the Battle of Nashville.  Their story begins at the time these soldiers were considered “contraband,” to the important role they played in building the railroad from Nashville to Johnsonville, followed by their conscription as Union soldiers.  Additional highlights include information about their camps, fortifications and artillery.   
 
The transportation narrative is fundamental to Johnsonville’s history – from the establishment and maintenance of the railroad, to the river transport that moved supplies and fortifications along the Tennessee River and were off-loaded in Johnsonville for transport by train to Nashville and beyond. 
 
Located off U.S. Highway 70, Johnsonville State Historic Park is named for Military Governor Andrew Johnson. This 600-acre park, on the eastern side of Kentucky Lake, encompasses and overlooks the site of the Battle of Johnsonville. On November 4, 1864, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry took up artillery positions on the west bank of the Tennessee River. Calvary forces under Forrest who had already sunk four Union gunboats downstream, opened fire on the depot from across the river and proceeded to set fire to and sink numerous Federal riverboats in their moorings. Confederate gunfire resulted in the burning of the supply depot, destroying millions of dollars’ worth of Union Army stores.  Two large artillery redoubts and other surviving fortifications can be visited at the park.  For additional information about the park, please visit www.tnstateparks.com/Johnsonville.
 
The Tennessee State Parks system was established through legislation in 1937, and those laws – with modifications and additions over the years – remain the framework for park operations today.  As in most states, Tennessee began in cooperation with federal programs that instigated individual parks. Later, Depression era recovery programs gave a boost to the idea and the possibility of creating parks. The Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration worked on land conservation, but also delved further into the actual planning and construction of what would become the first of 53 Tennessee State Parks.
 
Today, there is a state park within an hour’s drive of just about anywhere in Tennessee.  A 2009 University of Tennessee study highlights the positive economic impacts that state parks provide local communities, particularly in rural areas of the state.  The study found that for every dollar spent on trips to Tennessee State Parks, an additional $1.11 of economic activity was generated throughout the state.  When the direct and indirect expenditures were combined, the impact of Tennessee State Parks to the state’s economy was $1.5 billion in total industry output, supporting more than 18,600 jobs.
 
“Our vision statement highlights the inherent value of our natural environment, along with the value of the many physical reminders of Tennessee’s past,” added Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill.  “Tennessee’s state parks have played such an important role in our history, and they play a critical role in our health and quality of life, which will benefit Tennesseans well into the future.”
 
Tennessee's 53 state parks offer diverse natural, recreational and cultural experiences for individuals, families or business and professional groups.  State park features range from pristine natural areas to 18-hole championship golf courses.  For a free brochure about Tennessee State Parks, call toll free at 1-888-867-2757. For additional information, visit our Web site at www.tnstateparks.com.
 
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