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Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke receives the 2007 NRPA Gold Medal for Excellence in Parks and Recreation from Joe Crookham, Musco Lighting president, at the National Recreation and Parks Association annual conference in Indianapolis.

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Tennessee State Parks receives 2007 Gold Medal Grand Award at NRPA Congress in Indianapolis: Andy Lyon, Assistant Commissioner for State Parks Hospitality Services; Randy Smalley, State Parks West Tennessee Regional Manager; Mike Carlton, Assistant Commissioner for State Parks and Conservation; Bonnie Gamble, Recreation Education Services Assistant Director; Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke; Gerald Parish, West Tennessee PARTAS consultant; Philisa Bennett, State Parks Administrative Support Manager; Mark Tummons, Recreation Education Services Director; Anne Marshall, Special Projects Manager; April Johnson, East Tennessee PARTAS consultant.

Rangers and students climb Copperhead Rock at Fall Creek Falls State Park
Natural Bridge at South Cumberland State Park

Tennessee State Parks selected best in nation

Every two years the National Recreation and Park Association selects a state park system to receive the prestigious Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, the highest honor a park system can receive within the industry. Winners are determined by a panel of parks and recreation professionals that evaluate application materials with an emphasis on long-range planning, resource management, citizen support systems, environmental stewardship, program and professional development and agency recognition. 

This year the state parks of Georgia, Tennessee and Utah were finalists for the Gold Medal Award. On September 26 at the National Recreation and Park Association Congress in Indianapolis, Tennessee State Parks was named Gold Medal Winner for 2007. Tennessee had been a finalist for this award previously, but had never won. 

Some key accomplishments of Tennessee State Parks since 2003 identified by judges include: 

  1. Reopening 14 parks that had been previously closed;
  2. Removing restrictive access fees from the 23 state parks that had instituted them;
  3. Acquiring park adjacent properties with exceptional conservation value;
  4. Partnering with the Nature Conservancy and conservation-minded timber companies to protect 124,000 acres on the Northern Cumberland Plateau;
  5. Working with community organizations and other partners to open the first Boundless Playground at a state park anywhere in the country at Warriors' Path State Park;
  6. Purchasing renewable "Green Power" in all state parks where it's available.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke was at the NRPA Congress to receive this recognition.  “I am extremely proud of the parks professionals and staff at Tennessee State Parks,” said Commissioner Fyke when asked about the significance of the award.  "This tremendous accomplishment is a tribute to their dedication, expertise and commitment. It took an outstanding team effort – from the support of Governor Phil Bredesen to every park ranger and staff member in the field – to create the kind of progress that merits this honor.”   

Tennessee State Parks is celebrating its 70th Anniversary in 2007 at each of its 54 locations and 77 State Natural Areas. From the Appalachian Mountains in the east to the Mississippi River in the west, Tennessee State Parks offer a full range of recreational opportunities and natural experiences for more than 25 million visitors annually. “From our thousands of miles of hiking trails and unique interpretative programs to our inns and world-class golf courses, Tennessee State Parks amplify the beauty and diversity of our state’s natural scenery,” said Assistant Commissioner Mike Carlton. “I hope this national recognition will encourage people across the United States to come and enjoy our good nature at Tennessee State Parks.”

For more information on Tennessee State Parks visit

To view Tennessee State Parks Grand Award Gold Medal video, visit