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The Tennessee Conservationist Magazine

Recycling in Tennessee State Parks
By Lori Munkeboe

Tennessee State Parks embody conservation of land, conservation of wildlife and conservation of natural resources. So the idea of saving cans, paper, and bottles isn't a far stretch. Now, just about everyone knows that recycling saves landfill space and energy; admirable ambitions to say the least. But recycling cans and bottles also saves the Tennessee State Parks money; money in reduced waste hauling and money in waste disposal. It's not very glamorous, but it is very important.

The idea of recycling in Tennessee State Parks is not a new idea. Radnor Lake State Natural Area in Nashville and Paris Landing State Resort Park in Buchanan have had active recycling programs for years. Personnel in these parks can be recognized for making recycling as important a component of their parks as trails and cabins. It is from these active programs that the goal of expanding recycling throughout Tennessee State Parks took hold.
In the last year, three parks have been brought into the recycling fold with recycling programs: Tims Ford State Park in Winchester; Pinson Mounds Archeological Area in Pinson; and T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis. These three parks, in three different regions of the state, have made recycling a part of the Tennessee State Parks' commitment to its visitors and to the state of Tennessee.

Tims Ford State Park

Mike Robertson, manager of Tims Ford State Park has been in the state park system for over 16 years. Formerly of David Crockett State Park, Robertson moved to Tims Ford in March of 2001. While Robertson came from a park that had no recycling, Tims Ford had a fledgling program started in October 2000, by then acting manager, David Watson and his staff.
Initially, only cardboard and office paper was collected at Tims Ford. Within a few short months however, Tims Ford staff made the commitment to expand the program. Currently, Tims Ford has eight outdoor recycling bins for collecting plastic and aluminum.

In addition to aluminum and plastic, recycling bins inside the visitor's center and conference area collect mixed paper (office paper, magazines, catalogues, junk mail, newspaper) and cardboard is collected at the maintenance area. Recycling brochures are available to all visitors and recycling information is located in the cabins. Recyclables are collected by staff and taken to one of the several recycling drop-offs in Franklin County; cardboard is collected onsite by the county.

Robertson feels that recycling in Tennessee State Parks is important because, "part of the State Park's mission is to promote conservation and environmentalism. We should be in the forefront of providing these (recycling) services to accomplish this goal."

Robertson is excited about the recycling program and in the year it has been in place, already much less waste is going to the dumpsters. So much less, in fact, that the park has reduced the number of dumpsters it uses from six to two. While that may not seem like much, the dumpsters were being pulled (emptied) twice a week at $25 a pull.

Now, when out-of-state visitors come to this park and ask where they can recycle, Roberston no longer has to say "They can't." Roberston feels that his park "is now available to provide a service that's important to those that want to recycle". Providing something your visitors want while saving money at the same time -- now that’s good business.

Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Area

Pinson Mounds in West Tennessee encompasses the largest group of Indian mounds in the Southeast. When Ranger Steve Ward came to the park over two years ago, recycling on a small scale was already in place. Doug Cromwell of the maintenance staff at Pinson had several small trash cans set up for aluminum can recycling throughout the park.

On a visit to Radnor Lake, Ward saw several large recycling containers and the idea to significantly expand the program began. Ward had long recycled at his residence, but the larger containers allowed more items to be collected throughout the rest of the park. Ward decided that Pinson would recycle everything that was collected in Madison County's recycling program: #1 and #2 plastic, aluminum cans, steel cans, cardboard, and newspaper. Items are co-collected in the bins and taken to the nearest Madison County convenience center.
At Archeofest, recycling was introduced throughout the park. Over 4,000 persons visited the park in this day and a half long celebration, and, according to Ward, the recycling was a huge success. The Pinson Mounds "Friends" group emptied the 63-gallon bins twice during the festival. (They will be used to help with recycling at all of Pinson's large events). Currently, Cromwell and Farrell empty the 15 bins weekly; impressive for such a young recycling program.

"Recycling at Pinson Mounds is the way for TDEC to be the leader and set the example in the community," Ward says. "Recycling here at the park is very easy because all items are co-collected. There's absolutely no reason that any visitor to the park can't do it."

Ward also feels that a majority of the success of his program is due to the maintenance staff. "Without their commitment, the recycling program would not be the success it is."

T.O. Fuller State Park

T.O. Fuller State Park, one of the first state parks in Tennessee, is situated in the city of Memphis. Markee Tate, park manager at T.O. Fuller, was participating in a paper recycling program with Chucalissa Indian Village. Tate expressed an interest in expanding the recycling program at the park, knowing that the conservation and preservation of resources was an important mission of his park.

The program at T.O. Fuller, however, had to be convenient to a staff whose work time was already stretched. After meeting with Andy Ashford of the City of Memphis, an arrangement was made that recyclables collected in the park could be taken to Memphis' Earth Complex to a bin designated for T.O. Fuller. Tate's staff was already taking brush to the Earth Complex, so this arrangement allows them to maximize their trips and take the recyclables along with other materials.

Charles Haywood, maintenance supervisor, placed the recycling bins throughout the park, including the golf course, in late September. Recyclables collected include #1 and #2 plastic, steel cans, aluminum cans, and green, brown, and clear glass. As at Pinson Mounds, recyclables are co-collected in a single container.
With any new program, education is a key component. "Any guest with a reservation for the park, is given a brochure explaining the recycling program," Tate explains.

"There also signs around the park, for further reinforcement." So far, Tate feels that guests are using the bins as they should.

Tate is hoping that in the coming year, T.O. Fuller will be able to significantly reduce waste disposal costs.
"Recycling takes away from the overall amount of waste disposed of in the park. If guests aren't throwing it away, then we don't have to pay for its disposal. Those costs savings could be significant. If we can do what is good for the earth and good for park, we have accomplished one of our goals as the park's caretaker," Tate concludes.
The personnel at Tims Ford, Pinson Mounds, and T.O. Fuller have made this program a success. Without their help, especially that of the maintenance staff, this program simply could not have succeeded.

TDEC has received assistance from Franklin County Solid Waste, Jackson-Madison County Health Department, and the City of Memphis in setting up these recycling programs.
For more information, contact the Division of Community of Assistance at 615-532-0445.

(Lori Munkeboe is an environmental specialist with the TDEC's Division of Community Assistance.)



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