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Rocky Fork manager Tim Pharis gets official welcome

Erwin Record photo by Richard Rourk • Tim Pharis, who has been on the job since December of 2020, received a belated but enthusiastic welcome from the community during a special ceremony on July 14. Pharis, right, is shown with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Bryson.

By Richard Rourk

Rocky Fork State Park held a special ceremony Wednesday, July 14 to officially welcome Rocky Fork Ranger Tim Pharis as park manager.

Pharis officially took over the job on Dec. 6, 2020. 

“I’m excited about the future but with the weight of an enormous new responsibility,” Pharis told The Erwin Record at that time.

Pharis, who has been a ranger at Rocky Fork State Park since 2015, replaced former park manager Jesse Germeraad, who moved to another park in the Tennessee State Parks system. 

“I look forward to continuing to lay the groundwork that former manager Germeraad started,” Pharis said during his December interview. “His exceptional and selfless work ethic set this park up to succeed and I’m excited to be filling his shoes, or boots.”

The new park manager was welcomed by family, friends and several local representatives. 

“Every once in a while amidst the controversy you can get people together to work for a good thing,” remarked retired U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. “I remember when the conservation fund came and we decided to spend $40 million to purchase 10,000 acres of land. 

“I live in Blount County and people come from all over to see our beautiful parks and they happen to leave some of their money,” Alexander added. “That money pays for roads and schools and that’s the idea of what will happen here.”

Rocky Fork State Park officially became a state park in 2012 and was opened in 2015. It became known as the Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park in 2019 after former Gov. Bill Haslam named the park in honor of Alexander.

The welcoming ceremony took place at the  pavilion at the old Flag Pond Elementary School, which now serves as the headquarters for the Flag Pond Ruritan Club.

“This is a great turnout,” Unicoi County Commissioner Marie Rice told The Erwin Record. 

Rice was joined by Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely in welcoming Pharis to his new position. 

“All of the hard work that goes into this park does not go unnoticed by the rest of the county,” Evely said. “This park will be an economic driver in the coming years. We really are blessed to have this park and all its beauty. I’ve had a chance to meet Mr. Pharis and I feel very fortunate to have someone that has the passion that he does for this park looking over things.”

Pharis had a chance during the welcoming ceremony to explain what drives him and to outline his vision for Rocky Fork. 

“I grew up in Georgia, and I was always wanting to be outside,” Pharis said. “I got a scholarship to play bluegrass at ETSU. 

He said he couldn’t have picked a better place to attend school. 

“I got a job as a ranger here at Rocky Fork, and I knew I was where I needed to be,” he said. “I was surrounded by kindness and love by this community. I’m truly humbled to be here. I can’t wait for this to be the top wilderness destination in the state, because it has what it takes.”

Pharis sees a chance for Rocky Fork to get it right the first time as the park contemplates the construction of a visitors center. 

“We have an awesome opportunity to get it right the first time,” Pharis said. “We can learn from the mistakes of 55 other parks and really get this correct, and not only get a comfortable place for our visitors but also protect Rocky Fork while we do it because Rocky Fork is an awesome place.”

Planning on a proposed 3,000-square-foot visitors center for the park has been ongoing since 2018.

For more updates and a list of programs at Rocky Fork State Park please follow the park on social media or visit tnstateparks.com/parks/rocky-fork.