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Hiker's Jamboree set for May 2

Unicoi County residents and visitors are invited to discover Rocky Fork State Park – Tennessee’s newest state park – during the inaugural Hiker’s Jamboree set for Saturday, May 2.
According to information provided by Tim Pharis, a park ranger in the Tennessee State Parks system, the event will include many guided hikes by expert naturalists.
“Each hike and each talk will be a chance to explore a different facet of Rocky Fork’s unique natural and cultural history,” Pharis reported. “Topics will range from stream habitats to spring wildflowers, from traditional music to star gazing.”
The purpose of this event is to introduce Rocky Fork and the park to county residents and visitors. All of the events are free. Pre-registration is not required.
“Each walk and each talk will be a chance for you to enjoy another special corner of Tennessee’s new Rocky Fork State Park,” Pharis also reported.
According to the schedule of events, some walks will begin at the park, while others will take place at Flag Pond School. The schedule of events for May 2 provided by Pharis follows:
• 7:30 a.m. – ”Bird Walk” led by Kevin Brooks of East Tennessee State University and several local birders. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 8:30 a.m. – ”Rocky Fork: The Hidden Jewel of the Blue Ridge Wild” led by David Ramsey, a local nature photographer and naturalist. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 9:30 a.m. – ”History Walk” led by Ramsey, who will discuss the rich cultural history of Rocky Fork. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 10:30 a.m. – ”Mosses Hike” led by Becky Smuckers, an expert on the mosses and liverworts of Rocky Fork. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 11:30 a.m. – “Notable Plants of Rocky Fork” led by Dr. Frosty Levy of ETSU. This walk will introduce participants to the diverse flora of Rocky Fork. Meet at Flag Pond School.
• 12:30 p.m. – “Wildflower Hike” led by Levy and James Donaldson will focus on spring wildflowers. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 2:30 p.m. – ”Salamanders!” presented by Dr. Kevin Hamed of Virginia Highlands Community College will focus on the salamanders of the region. Meet at Flag Pond School.
• 3:30 p.m. – “Salamander Stroll” led by Hamed. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 4:30 p.m. – “Creek Walk” led by Ranger Marty Silver. Participants will walk through the clear, cool waters of Rocky Fork. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 6 p.m. – ”Music of the Hills” led by Pharis and Roy Andrade of ETSU’s bluegrass program. Traditional Unicoi County tunes will be performed. Meet at Flag Pond School.
• 7 p.m. – ”Sunset Walk” will be a short, but very steep hike to the Whitehouse Rocks overlook. Participants should be prepared to climb and bring a flashlight for the return trip. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
• 8:30 p.m. – ”Spring Night Skies” will be presented by the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club. This event will be cancelled in the event of inclement weather. Meet at the park gate on Rocky Fork Road.
Those wishing to participate in any of the events are reminded to wear hiking boots and comfortable outdoor clothing. Participants are also advised to bring rain gear, an extra layer of clothing, water trail snacks and a flashlight.
For more information, contact Pharis or Marty Silver at 239-6786 or 239-8531.
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The Rocky Fork tract is a 10,000-acre tract named for the creek that runs down its center. Of those 10,000 acres, approximately 6,500 are in Unicoi County. The remaining 3,500 are in Greene County.
Governor Bill Haslam announced that Rocky Fork would become Tennessee’s 55th state park during a visit to Unicoi County in 2012.
The main goal for committing to build a state park, Haslam said during the event, is conservation of Tennessee’s natural resources and to provide another venue for recreation to Tennesseans.
“It’s an honor today to get to announce that Rocky Fork will be the 55th state park,” Haslam said. “It’s an incredible piece of property and I think it could be something we can be proud of for a long time for preserving but also for giving an opportunity for people to enjoy the park but also an economic opportunity for this entire area.”
The future park at Rocky Fork, Haslam said, will have the highest elevation of all Tennessee state parks. Haslam said he is confident Rocky Fork’s unique qualities will impact Unicoi County positively with the addition of the park.
“We’ve seen in other state parks that that’s happened,” Haslam also said in 2012. “People come to visit the park and the surrounding communities reap the economic benefit and I fully think that can happen.”
According to Pharis, preliminary plans for the 2,000-acre Rocky Fork State Park “include an access road, ranger station, primitive campground, picnic areas and trails, in addition to interpretive efforts to share the historic Revolutionary War-era battle site.”