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Future of Rocky Fork State Park topic of meetings

Unicoi County citizens had the opportunity to hear a status update and make their voices heard during a pair of public meetings regarding the future of Rocky Fork State Park on Thursday, Nov. 19, at Flag Pond School and Erwin Town Hall.
With a coalition of different organizations spearheading the event, led by Anne Marshall, senior advisor for the deputy commissioner for parks & conservation at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, members from the community had the opportunity to discuss what lies ahead for the area.
“This is a great opportunity for the community of Flag Pond, town of Erwin, basically anybody inside and outside of Unicoi County to give their suggestions, ideas and creative thoughts about moving forward the development of the park,” Jesse Germeraad, park manager of Rocky Fork, said on Wednesday at the meeting in Flag Pond.
Each meeting, split up into five different small groups: trail development and designations; natural and cultural resource projects; economic development; friends and volunteer groups; and infrastructure and development.
In an interview following the meetings, Germeraad said he liked what was accomplished.
“Sometimes we get stuck in just one train of thought,” Germeraad said. “It is always great to hear from people outside of the organizations. The meetings went well. We heard input from the community on a wide variety of topics and the reports from the meetings will be made available online once all the information is gathered.”
Looking ahead, Marshall told individuals in attendance at Flag Pond that the opinions of the public will be presented for further discussion as plans for the park continue.
“The growth at the park right now has been on education,” Germeraad said. “Park ranger Tim Pharis and I have been out trying to establish relationships with the people from the community and businesses about the park and working through grassroot efforts.
“From the outside looking in, not much has changed since our soft opening in May, but we’re still in the process of getting things finalized to begin working on the infrastructure and other things needed at Rocky Fork.”
The park has a variety of plans ahead to help continue the growth of the 2,036-acres worth of land, Germeraad said.
“The Unicoi County government is working diligently to get the last bit of remaining funding needed to get the new water line placed at the park,” he added. “The county is also working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation about widening the road to allow a better flow of traffic leading into the park.”
Germeraad added that they are currently working to address a wetland spot near the parking area before gravel is placed by another company to work with the lot near the entrance of the park.
While work continues on the infrastructure and roadways into Rocky Fork, events are coming up soon for people to enjoy the scenic terrain, Germeraad added.
A hikers’ jamboree is currently in the works, while a host of other summer events are currently discussed for presentation to the public in 2016.