ActivePaper Archive Fall Creek Falls gets upgrade - Chattanooga, 2/14/2007

Fall Creek Falls gets upgrade

Renovations to make park more accessible for modern equipment

Staff Photo by Ben Benton

Jim Hall, manager of Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park, said work started recently to renovate and update camping facilities at the park in Van Buren County.


PIKEVILLE, Tenn. — People once camped with only the barest necessities, but these days modern campers want to take their high-tech gadgets and equipment into the woods, said the manager of Fall Creek Falls State Resort Park.

The demands of modern camping prompted state officials to undertake a $1.8 million renovation at the park that draws almost a million visitors a year, said manager Jim Hall, who’s worked there for 33 years.

“Modern camping requires more than 15-amp service,” Mr. Hall said. “This renovation will make us more attractive to more folks and more usable to more people.”

The park has undergone minor renovations over the past 30 years, but Mr. Hall said this one “is a big deal.”

Two campgrounds will be closed during renovations that should be finished by fall, he said. Other campsites will be open but can’t be reserved and will be available only on a first-come, first-served basis, he said.

Renovation plans for 66 of the park’s 228 campsites include higher-capacity electrical hookups, added sewer hookups where possible, new bathhouses in two campgrounds and leveling areas where visitors set up tents and campers, said Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The new bathhouses and more campsites will be handicap-accessible, she said.

In an unrelated project, the Tennessee Department of Transportation plans to begin replacing the Rock House Creek bridge on state Highway 284. The road was scheduled to be closed Monday for two weeks. Visitors must use the park’s south entrance, officials said.

Mr. Hall said electrical supply will improve to 30- and 50-amp services to handle more sophisticated campers, recreational vehicles and all the accouterments of a modern camper.

The entrances of many campsites will be reconstructed to allow vehicles pulling campers to drive onto a new level pad, he said.

Ellen Geeslin, who lives in Red Bank, has camped at Fall Creek Falls since she was a Girl Scout in the 1960s.

“It was very rustic,” Mrs. Geeslin, 54, said of the park’s early days. “There was really nothing there but a park headquarters then.”

She wound up working at the park a few years later as the waterfront director, she said. Mr. Hall was the park’s naturalist then.

“I worked there in ’73 and ’74, and I’ve gone back camping every since then,” Mrs. Geeslin said. “It’s just gorgeous. It’s my favorite place on earth.”

Some people struggle with modern camping gear and large recreational vehicles as they make their way into the campgrounds, she said.

“The big RVs, they’ve got their satellite dishes and they have to try to squeeze in,” Mrs. Geeslin said.

Access to some smaller sites is difficult, “especially for popup campers,” she said. “Some of them really have a hard time.”

Modifications to the campsite entrances will make a big difference for those visitors, but she’d like some consideration for her own kind, too, she said.

“I’m a tent camper,” she said. “Don’t forget the tent campers. We just need a little bit of ground and a picnic table.”

E-mail Ben Benton at NOTE: also ran in the Metro edition.