Fall Creek Falls Inn Looks To Privatize Costing State Employees Their Jobs

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-05 20:45:54-05

Winter has typically been a quiet time at Fall Creek Falls State Park, but in the parking lot of the Inn and Conference Center a crowd grew. 

The peaceful protestors were there for one reason on Thursday.

"This park belongs to the people of Tennessee," Pikeville resident, Pam Romans, said. 

While protestors gathered outside, indoors TDEC officials met with five private vendors. The State has planned to invest $20 million to demolish and rebuild the inn, then allow operations to go to a private corporation. That would mean the dozens of State employees that work there will be out of a job, at least for a few years.

TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said the agreement with a private vendor will help insure consistent funding to maintain the concession facilities, which included the golf course, all the cabins, and the inn, which has seen a major dip in occupancy rates.

"This park is not just here to be a profit center. It's here to preserve the land around here. It's here to be affordable for Tennesseans. Under this RFP, the inn rates are going to double," Randy Stamps, executive director of Tennessee State Employee Association, said.  

"I'll just sum it up into one word: travesty," said Van Buren County Mayor Greg Wilson. 

Wilson has been concerned how privatizing a portion of the park will affect the county's revenue.

"We're a distressed county as it is. We're working to not be a distressed county, but this is just another way that we'll still become and stay a distressed county," he said. 

The State said more visitors at the inn will lead to increased tax revenue for local governments.

The locals, however, haven't been buying it.

"It's very personal to the people of this area. Not only is it personal, it's financial as well to protect their jobs," Romans said.

The State went on to say it has been committed to finding other employment opportunities inside TDEC or state government for those employees who will be affected by the privatization.