‘Complete rebuild’ of Fall Creek Falls State Park lodging approved

The Haslam administration has received approval from the State Building Commission for its plans to rebuild the guest lodging at Fall Creek Falls State Park, reports the Time Free Press.

The plan is to tear down two existing facilities and build a single inn with about 85 rooms along with a new restaurant and conference center at the 26,000-acre park, long considered the “crown jewel” of Tennessee’s state parks system, on the Upper Cumberland Plateau. The work is expected to take 1 1/2 to two years.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation would continue to operate the inn and restaurant. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam threw in the towel on his plan to outsource park hospitality in May after vendors twice showed no interest.

…In their Nov. 9 meeting, building commission members voted to cancel a years-old plan to renovate the park’s main inn, then approved TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau’s request to go forward with rebuilding.

“The state of the facility dictated doing a more complete rebuild of that project,” Martineau said in a video recording of the meeting.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker, put Martineau on record on addressing Van Buren County officials’ concerns over compensation for lost tax revenue during closure. Only about 5,000 people live in Van Buren County, and the park is a major local revenue source.

“I think the administration had worked with the county, it’s a very small county, to ensure that it doesn’t disrupt the tax base,” McNally said. He noted that Bowling, Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, all had joined him during an October tour of the inn.

Martineau said he and Finance Commissioner Larry Martin talked how to handle the tax losses in what he called the “bridge time” during construction. He said opening the new inn and conference center is expected to bring in more tax money than the old facility did.

“We’re going to work with them to recognize the impact in the short term that that will have on Van Buren County,” he added.

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