Tennessee State Parks see an attendance boom during the pandemic

bicentennial mall park
Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 21:41:39-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As the pandemic continues, a lot of us are staying home more often -- with one notable exception. The state estimates more than 34 million people visited state parks in 2020, and they hope the trend continues in 2021.

"This is crazy, I’m loving this," said Walt Willey, a frequent guest at Bicentennial Mall in Downtown Nashville. 'This is a great place to do it."

Willey says he walks about five miles a day, at least three days a week. That's been a passion of his for a while, but especially so during the pandemic. He's noticed he isn't the only one. "It seems like there’s quite a few people out there," said Willey.

Chelsey Bach says the surge in park visits doesn't surprise her a bit.

"It’s a lot better than being cooped up inside. It’s hard. It’s hard, especially with little ones being trapped inside," Bach said, as she wrangles her young daughter Zoey.

Chelsey says coming out to Bicentennial Mall is a chance for her and her daughter to have the occasional picnic and release a little energy. "Try to score a nap maybe," she joked.

The State of Tennessee hopes to keep the ball rolling. They've got nearly 200 million dollars worth of capital improvements budgeted at parks across the three grand divisions. Those improvement projects are expected to result in over $400 million dollars in economic impact for Tennessee.

Willey says you'll see him out here even more if the pretty weather continues.

"How often do you get 55 degree days in January so get out and enjoy it," he suggested.