Renaming of park for Alexander is fitting honor for the Tenn. senator

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Rocky Fork State Park located at Flag Pond in Unicoi County has been renamed the Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park by Gov. Bill Haslam.
The outgoing governor says the Republican senator’s commitment to preservation and record of service prompted him to make the change.
Alexander helped secure more than $30 million to purchase the Rocky Fork tract in 2006 and add it to the Cherokee National Forest. In 2012, Haslam announced he would convert more than 2,000 acres (809 hectare) of the Rocky Fork tract into Tennessee’s 55th state park where Alexander was in attendance.
The renaming of the park for Alexander, who has devoted most of his life to public service, is an appropriate honor for the former governor, who in his first campaign for governor walked across Tennessee, beginning his walk for votes in Mountain City and ending it in Memphis. Until then, Alexander was a virtual unknown.
Since then he has served briefly as President of the University of Tennessee and as secretary of education in the George Bush administration, and more recently as Tennessee senator. Alexander is held in high regard by his colleagues in the Senate.
While governor, Alexander became a champion of education and put in place much of the educational framework that has brought success to Tennessee schools.
His accomplishments in the Senate included this year’s measure aimed at easing the opioid crisis and a second bill ensuring more royalties to songwriters — a topic close to Alexander’s Nashville heart. Alexander, himself, is an accomplished pianist.
The Rocky Fork State Park is not the first of Alexander’s efforts to preserve East Tennessee’s scenic outdoors. Back in 1984, Gov. Alexander was a champion for the original Tennessee Wilderness Act, and more recently, the 2018 Farm Bill which included a new Tennessee Wilderness Act, sponsored by Senators Alexander and Bob Corker to protect 20,000 acres of lands in East Tennessee as federally-protected wilderness.
The legislation will permanently protect the headwaters of the Upper Bald River, by designating one new wilderness area, The Upper Bald River Wilderness, and by adding additional acreage to five others in the Cherokee National Forest, assuring kayakers, fishermen, hunters, local businesses and future generations will forever have clean and clear water.
Some of that land is located in Carter County at Big Laurel Branch near Watauga Lake.
The land included in the Tennessee Wilderness Act provides a home to a variety of native species including white-tail deer, brook trout, black bear, bobcat, and many migratory birds.
Sen. Alexander’s roots are in East Tennessee, and it is fitting that Rocky Fork State Park bears his name. It is also a fitting honor for Alexander’s commitment to preservation. The senator has been a tireless champion for the preservation of not only Rocky Fork, but the Appalachian Trial. Through preservation of Rocky Fork, the trail in that area has been improved from a muddy road to a winding path through lush Tennessee hardwoods, in addition to the senator’s legacy. Alexander has long been a supporter of national parks and public lands.
He has served in the U.S. Senate since 2003 and late last year announced he would not seek a fourth term.
Alexander has served Tennessee well, leaving some big shoes to fill by his successor.
We not only wish him well in his future endeavors but say “thank you” for your service to Tennesseans.

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