*Tennessee rankings among the 50 states
- 9th most released toxic air emissions
- 10th most toxins released (includes air, water, underground, and surface land)
- 8th most coal mines
- ^39th: Air Pollution
* Morgan, Kathleen O'Leary and Morgan, Scott. CQ Press's State Fact Finder Series: State Rankings 2010. Washington, DC, 2010.
^United Health Foundation: America's Health Rankings 2010. No. 1 is best; No. 50 is worst.
“Park” Yourself for a Moment and Discover How
Our Taxes Support “Tennessee’s Good Nature”
Understanding our deep interconnectedness with all other living beings is key to the sustainable existence of humans on planet Earth. For many across Tennessee, there’s no more convenient convening with nature than to visit a local or state park. In fact, Tennessee’s more than 50 state parks host 25 million visitors annually, and our park system was recognized in 2007 with the Gold Medal Award for Excellence as among the nation’s finest.
Without the support of taxpayer dollars, these gems would never have even been created. And we’d have a hard time keeping them up and running. Starting in 2001, due to a state budget crisis, 14 state parks were shut down and 23 had access fees placed on them. It was a nearly $1 million appropriation by the state legislature in 2006 that reversed these restrictions.
That’s your tax dollars at work:
- preserving natural spaces and the wildlife – both animal and plant – that inhabit it;
- funding interpretive programs and exhibits to educate young people about our state’s rich history, both natural and cultural;
- maintaining trails and waterways that promote fitness and recreation;
- keeping parks open and affordable for everyone;
- supporting over 18,000 jobs in our state and pumping $1.5 billion into the economy in FY2008-2009 alone.
A study recently released by the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture found that our state parks are an economic engine for the state, particularly in rural communities. In FY2008-2009, visitors spent $725 million on items such as food, gas, lodging and activities during trips to state parks. For each dollar spent on visits to Tennessee State Parks, an additional $1.11 of economic activity was generated, resulting in $1.5 billion in total industry output. That brings the total number of jobs supported by state parks in Tennessee to more than 18,600. According to the study, state parks also play a role in reducing physical and mental health costs and increasing overall productivity, while increasing the state’s attractiveness to industries and individuals looking to relocate in an area rich in natural amenities.
My favorite state parks are Radnor and Pickett. Since I live in Nashville, Radnor offers a chance to encounter turtles, otters, and waterfowl of many kinds while enjoying a natural retreat in the middle of the city! Pickett State Park on the TN-KY border, and abutting Big South Fork National Recreation Area, is a peaceful getaway that my family has enjoyed for years. Here’s a picture of me enjoying a late winter snowfall at Pickett in 2009.
All Tennessee State Parks are handicap accessible. None have an access fee to enter. All are within an hour’s drive of any point in Tennessee. All are rich with opportunities for recreation and education. Our parks allow people of all abilities, all socio-economic levels, and all locations to appreciate the natural world. When we pay taxes, we are voting “yes” to state parks, and the many advantages they bring.