SPENCER, Tenn. (WTVF) — Zonda Holloway didn't realize when she bused tables in 1983 she would run Fall Creek Falls decades later.
Now four generations of her family have worked at the Van Buren County state park.
"I have been at the park for a long time," Holloway said. "I started at 21. Little did I know that would be the start of something great."
She and others Tuesday clipped the ribbon on the upgrades to the park.
The park last year opened a $2.7 million, 4,800 square-foot visitors center as part of the $184 million in investment in capital projects in state parks across Tennessee.
"It’s one of the most beautiful spots in all of America," Gov Bill Lee said. "We stayed here and we camped out. We stayed in a tent and our detail was shocked by that. They stayed in a cabin. We are very fortunate to be Tennesseans."
The highly anticipated $40.4 million lodge will have 85 rooms, conference space and a full-service restaurant and lounge.
"What a privilege it is to be here at this stunning new lodge," said Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. "What a great story. This is what makes these kind of places successful. It’s an important investment to come here and create revenue. Our scenic beauty has truly set Tennessee apart as visitors escaped to the great outdoors. Van Buren and Bledsoe County saw millions in revenue in 2020. That data underscores how our rural communities perform."
Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s largest and most visited state parks. The park encompasses more than 29,800 acres on the Cumberland Plateau. It features 30 cabins and 222 campsites, as well as camping. More than 56 miles of trails can be explored. The Nature Center at Fall Creek Falls offers hands-on environmental education through naturalist-led programs. The park also features the Fall Creek Falls Golf Course and pro shop.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be standing on this stage," Holloway said.
More information on Lodge Fall Creek Falls at tnstateparks.com.