Amid the trials and turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, David Crockett Birthplace State Park made steady progress in park improvements during 2020 and will focus on providing more programs for visitors in 2021.

“A lot of projects we focused on in the beginning of the year were identifying reoccurring issues and working towards resolving those issues,” said Park Manager Keifer Helle. “A lot of these projects are unseen or behind the scenes but have increased the quality of the park and the overall visitor experience, including flooding issues in various locations throughout the park such as the B-Loop section of the campground.”

Helle said other projects included ehancements to the flintlock range, group camp area and the amphitheater.

“Each project so far has been what we call a Legacy Project which means that it will hopefully be a positive part of this park indefinitely,” he said. “We have many mantras here, but one is ‘do what we can today to make a better tomorrow.’”

In 2021, a main focus for park staff will be providing additional programs for park visitors.

“We want to ensure that we are providing accessible, high-quality programs,” Helle said. “What we are really excited for is our Crockett Tour program. This year we have the goal to offer it once a week during the summer season for our guests. There is no Crockett Tour like this anywhere else in the world and we pride ourselves with being able to offer this unique experience.”

The park will continue to offer annual volunteer workdays and hikes throughout the year.

Helle said 2020 taught him unexpected lessons that he plans to take with him going forward.

“The initial challenge was doing my part to understand COVID and the impact that it could create,” he explained. “It was very surreal to me that no matter what years’ worth of experience a leader had, this was something we all were discovering together at the same time. It was a unique time in my life as I was still fairly new in my role. I joke that I feel like I’ve gained 50 years’ worth of leadership experience in a six-month time frame.

“I am very appreciative of my staff in putting their trust in me and allowing me to learn how to be an effective leader as well as managing a state park through a global pandemic. Also, I am appreciative of the agency (TDEC) and the other Tennessee State Park employees. We all leaned and relied on each other through that time, and it developed a tighter bond between us all.”

One lesson that became apparent during the first year of the pandemic was that parks provide more than recreation.

“Our initiative last year was that Tennessee State Parks could provide people a place to get out into nature,” Helle said. “All of us in this field know of the importance of nature and last year was the reminder of how nature plays a pivotal role in our lives. I think we will see a continued growth in visitation and a stronger emphasis on health and well-being.”