State parks are an incredible resource that should be protected. Clarksville has two, Dunbar Cave State Park and Port Royal Historic Park. These sites, as well as others, provide something that can be found nowhere else — a protected environment that is free to access by the general public. 

          The state park system in the United States includes 8,565 parks with 56 being located in Tennessee. The establishment of official state parks dates back to the beginning of the 19th century and their significance is undeniable today. 

           State parks provide recreation areas that are generally free which also highlight the beauty and history of each state. Tennessee has incredible parks such as Montgomery Bell in Burns, Tennessee as well as Cummins Falls in Cookeville, Tennessee that show the awe-inspiring wonders of Tennessee to everyone. 

         An important aspect of these areas is the fact that there is free access to miles of hiking trails and other recreational areas. A lot of state parks include playgrounds for children and swimming areas in the summer, which allows people to experience nature without having to stress about the cost. As a college student, free is the best. 

          The Tennessee State Park system relies on funding from two main sources. Fees related to lodging, gift shops, and certain recreational activities pay for around $39 million of the total $84 million costs for operation. The General Assembly provides the remaining $45 million costing each citizen about $7 annually according to the Tennessee State Parks website. The fact that the cost of making these areas available to citizens cost less than $1 a month is amazing. 

          Another aspect of the state park system is the preservation of historic landmarks. Many parks have preserved some battle sites from the Civil War as well as portions of the Trail of Tears. These parks protect these historic sites and offer free educational opportunities to the public. Again the best thing about Tennessee State Parks is the free access to the recreational and educational sites.

          People can help support these areas in a number of ways. The most obvious way is by donating money and time. Volunteering opportunities are available and can be found on the Tennessee State Park website. Another way to support state parks is to just visit and leave feedback. Explore what Tennessee State Parks have to offer and see new things you have already paid for with less than a dollar from your taxes. Surveys about park experiences can help a lot by highlighting areas of improvement and usually only take a couple minutes. 

          State Parks need to be supported and protected for the opportunities they present everyone. The opportunity to learn and the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the area you live in exist in state parks. Visit a Tennessee State Park for free and see new things this year.