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Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park to Hold Special Presentation Sept. 20

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | 06:59am

Event Will Help Commemorate Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. – The year 2012 marks Tennessee State Parks’ 75th Anniversary, and to help commemorate this important milestone, Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park will host a special presentation, featuring local historian Richard Z. Gray, on Thursday, Sept. 20, beginning at 7 p.m. at the park’s Visitor Center theater.  This event is being offered by the Friend of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park and is open to the public.

Gray, a retired Sessions Juvenile Judge for Carter County and an advisor to the Friends of Sycamore Shoals board of directors, will take participants back to the early days of Sycamore Shoals – the days the park was merely a concept, and not yet a reality.

The stories he will share originated from his father, Thomas Marion Gray, Jr, who was appropriately and affectionately deemed, “the rugged dreamer.”  Tom Gray was a man of vision who dearly loved Carter County.   He was noted for always writing, particularly letters to the editor and sharing his ideas for making the county a better place.   Tom Gray, Jr. actively promoted the local communities’ histories, the Overmountain Victory Trail, Roan Mountain State Park, local botany programs, and learning about the forests of the region.  He also directed the Roan Mountain Naturalists Rally, which Richard Gray chaired after his father’s passing. 

“Thomas Gray, with Richard by his side, found himself ‘on the front lines’ as our community came together to encourage the state of Tennessee to fund the creation of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area,” said Park Manager Jennifer Bauer.  “Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear those behind-the-scenes events that were instrumental in bringing to fruition the creation of our own great state park.”

Bauer added that the evening will include an anniversary celebration complete with cake, light snacks and the opportunity to meet other park supporters. 

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 54 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 state parks deliver a rich fabric of natural landscapes, wild places, preserved ecologies, outdoor recreational opportunities and protected historic scenes and resources – together representing the heritage of Tennessee in the landscape.

Tennessee's 54 state parks and 82 state natural areas 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 upcoming events in connection with the 75th Anniversary of Tennessee State Parks, please visit the state parks website at

In commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Tennessee State Parks, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation launched an innovative new microsite at Established in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the microsite displays Tennessee State Parks’ rich heritage and showcases the many outdoor adventures awaiting state park visitors through rich media and dynamic content.

Sycamore Shoals State Park and Historic Area attracts more than 305,000 people every year. The 85-acre site sits on the banks of the Watauga River where the Overmountain Men assembled in 1780 before marching to defeat the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain, a turning point in the Revolutionary War.  The park features interpretive exhibits, events, a fitness trail and picnic facilities.  It is located off U.S. Highway 321 in Elizabethton.  For more information about the park, call the park office at (423) 543-5808 or visit  For more information about the Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, visit


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