Horton transformation "a bright spot"

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After years of planning, the state officially celebrated the current construction project at Henry Horton State Park.

Gov. Bill Lee was joined by a host of elected officials, state park and general services employees, construction executives, and local residents to focus on the changes and investment at the park.

“This is a bright spot in the middle of dark days,” said Lee in his remarks, adding that the project benefitting the park was a benefit to the entire state.

Crews are currently building a visitors center for the park and a new restaurant building with outdoor seating, joined by a plaza.

The two-story center and almost 6,400 square foot restaurant represent a $8.25 million investment in the park by the state.

The current restaurant structure will be converted into additional meeting space for groups at the park.

Horton was the largest of the state parks without a dedicated visitors center. Additionally, the Duck River Agency has contributed $350,000 to the center, providing for 1,154 square feet of exhibits and interpretive space on the Duck River, one of the most biologically diverse in the world.

The visitors center will also provide new office space for the park staff.

“Our state parks are a great source of pride for Tennessee, and this project underscores our commitment to providing Tennesseans with modern facilities to accompany the natural beauty at Henry Horton State Park,” Lee said.

Construction is expected to be completed in the late spring or early summer of 2021. Work is currently on schedule and the bid came in under the state’s budgeted amount.

Work on the project has been underway way for several weeks now. COVID-19 disruptions delayed the official kickoff of the work until this week.

“This is a transformational project for the park and a huge boost for the economy of this area,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson.

The project was initially approved in the state’s 2017 budget.

A proposal that year would have built the new structures but also demolished the park’s existing hotel building. That idea met with strong opposition from county residents and State Rep. Rick Tillis and then Sen. Jim Tracy were able to lobby for that plan to be dropped from the final budget.

“The successes we have in the state parks are successes in our communities,” said Park Manager Ryan Jenkins.

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