Fall Creek Falls privatization postponed; Democrats declare victory

The Haslam administration has abruptly abandoned the Thursday deadline originally set for companies interested in taking over operation of Fall Creek Falls State Park to file bids with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, reports the Times-Free Press.

Eric Ward (TDEC spokesman)…  said today in response to a Times Free Press (inquiry) that “the RFP has been postponed to incorporate amended process language which will be made available soon.”

It was not known how long the proposal would be postponed or what the specific issues leading to it are.

There was no immediate elaboration but the administration’s process has been under fire from the Tennessee State Employees Association as well as several lawmakers who have raised questions not only on that issue but the effort to privatize hospitality services at the park, which straddles Van Buren and Bledsoe counties in a remote area of the Upper Cumberland Plateau.


Democrats opposing privatization opponents promptly sent a statement declaring victory. It’s  below.

News release from Rep. John Ray Clemmons and Sen. Lee Harris

NASHVILLE, TN – State lawmakers are declaring victory after news today that the state Department of General Services appears to have indefinitely postponed its Request for Proposal (RFP) for a concession contract for the redevelopment and operation of hospitality facilities at Fall Creek Falls State Park.

This news comes after a series of town hall meetings hosted by State Representative John Ray Clemmons and State Senator Lee Harris at state facilities, including Fall Creek Falls and Montgomery Bell State Parks.  

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Sen. Lee Harris said. “But, this looks like total and unequivocal victory for state employees and Tennesseans who want to keep our cherished public assets from landing in the laps of profit-driven companies.” 

“The decision to not privatize Tennessee parks, which were first up in the governor’s expansive plan, has many positive benefits for Tennesseans. It means we will not have to raise rates significantly at Tennessee parks to feed the insatiable profit demands of a private business. It means we won’t have to expose state employees to possible job loss and wage reductions. Most importantly, it means that that we’re back to setting an agenda that aligns with the expectations of real Tennesseans, instead of relying on consultants to tell us what we should be doing.”

“Senator Harris and I heard from hundreds of concerned workers, their families and local officials at Fall Creek Falls and Montgomery Bell State Park,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons said. “To a person, these hard-working Tennesseans were afraid for their livelihoods and their community’s well-being, and they were outraged about the governor’s lack of transparency. There was widespread concern that this was a ‘done deal,’ but Senator Harris and I promised them we’d keep fighting. We did. This announcement of postponement is a significant victory for rural workers, families and their local communities.”

“I’ve stated many times that our state parks must be protected and our state facilities must be adequately maintained and improved,” Rep. Clemmons said. “Our parks protect and preserve our state’s natural beauty, and they drive local economies by providing good jobs and revenue. We must invest in our state parks and improve them for Tennessee families.”


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