Horton funding deal passes

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Marshall County received some good news out of Nashville on Friday.

The House of Representatives approved next year’s state budget, and with it, a deal that would preserve the Inn at Henry Horton State Park.

Representative Rick Tillis notified the Tribune of the good news on Friday after the session.

The $37 billion state budget for next year preserves the $10.05 million requested by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for capital projects at the park.

The major change in the request is a reprieve for the inn.

The demolition costs for the building were initially included as part of the request but a combination of grass-roots lobbying and appeals from county officials seems to have made an impact.

Specifics of how TDEC plans to move forward are not yet available, but an official announcement of the agreement is scheduled for 12 p.m. Friday at the park.

Tillis said that he hoped to have more details at that point but emphasized the importance of a $10 million investment in Marshall County.

Stacey Cothran with the Friends of Henry Horton State Park wholeheartedly agrees.

“It’s a game changer for the county,” Cothran said. “It will have a huge economic impact.”

She feels that the letter writing and advocacy campaigning done by supporters of the park had an impact on the state’s ultimate decision.

Supporters of the inn pointed out the importance of lodging to the future of the park, as well as the park’s place in the economic development of the county.

TDEC had originally requested an additional $6.7 million earmarked for the renovation of the inn at Henry Horton.

At some point in the process before the Governor’s budget was submitted to the General Assembly, that money disappeared, replaced with a plan to demolish the inn entirely, leaving only a 12-room motel and four or five cabins at the park available for lodging.

The final budget passed the state House of Representatives on Friday and was approved by the Senate on Monday.