Expressing gratitude for a thoughtful gesture

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Rocky Fork State Park is in one of the most beautiful parts, not just of our state, but of our country. It is Upper East Tennessee’s gateway to the Appalachian Trail, and I consider the area a national treasure. 

This park reaches up to 4,800 feet in elevation, making it one of the few areas in Tennessee that you can enjoy the trout streams, wildlife, hiking and backdrop of the Smoky Mountains at that height.

Because of the park’s natural beauty, it should soon be one of our state’s most popular parks.

Earlier this week, I visited Rocky Fork and was grateful to receive the unexpected and thoughtful gesture of Governor Bill Haslam naming the park in my honor.

My roots are here in East Tennessee, and to this day I still live in the foothills of the Smokies. My ancestors arrived in Limestone, not too far from Rocky Fork, in 1780. I have seven generations of family connections to the Upper East Tennessee area, so it is a very special place to me.

Both as governor and United States Senator, I have worked hard to preserve East Tennessee’s scenic outdoors. I have seen how a popular park can provide outdoor experiences for Tennesseans and also attract tourism, which brings with it jobs and tax dollars to the area.

Governor Haslam understands this and has had a spectacular eight years as the leader of our state. One of the areas he has been so successful in is conservation and preserving our outdoors, and at this week’s naming ceremony, he said something that really struck me. 

He recently had his official portrait hung in the state capitol, as all governors do, and said that he wished that the portrait could have included his wife, Crissy, and the many others with whom he worked in his administration because they were all important in making things happen.

I feel the same way about the naming of this park. It would have been nice if we could include everyone’s name who had a part in it. Dave Ramsey – a friend of mine and strong advocate for Rocky Fork – listed 38 different people and organizations who had a role in working to turn Rocky Fork into a state park. So the name of this park would be very long if it included everybody who played a role in making it what it is today.

I am very grateful for and surprised by this honor, and it could not have happened in a nicer place in the world as far as I am concerned.

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