‘Out in the woods’

I enjoyed interviewing the new park manager for Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park, Bill Knapp, last week for the Herald & Tribune. The interview only made me want to go out and explore more with Jason. I miss our hikes and adventures in nature.

Article that ran in the Herald & Tribune Dec. 24, 2013 issue

New park manager shares big plans for new year

Some improvements are currently under way at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park under the new management of Bill Knapp.

“Really every day is different,” he said of why he enjoys working at state parks. “I told myself I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk. I wanted to be out in the woods enjoying myself all day.”

Knapp moved to Virginia at the age of 11 from Danbury, Conn., where he was born. He remained in Virginia until he enrolled at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville where he earned his bachelor’s degree in wildlife management.

His career in state parks began 16 years ago at Claytor Lake State Park in Virginia as a maintenance man.

Knapp said since he enjoyed working in parks, he took on a summer job as a seasonal naturalist at Falls Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee.

Bledsoe Creek State Park, which is also located in Tennessee, is where he became a park ranger for the first time in January 1998. He remained there for a year before relocating to another park in Tennessee, South Cumberland State Park. There he worked as a ranger for a few years before being promoted to the assistant manager.

While he worked at South Cumberland State Park he did a lot of hiking, participated in search and rescues, and fought fires, as well as being involved in cave programs.

“I did a lot of rock climbing and rapelling,” Knapp said.

Since the South Cumberland State Park is back country with 90 miles of trails and 14 backpacking camper homesites, many of the rescues were deep in the woods.

“The park was so big, you had to walk in two to three hours to get to the victim,” Knapp explained.

Some of the rescues were of individuals who had fallen off a bluff, breaking a leg or twisting a knee in the process. Knapp said rescuers would rig systems to raise individuals off the bottom of a cliff.

Knapp’s duties changed  in late September when he took the park manager position at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone. He said this is his first experience working with a sewage plant and swimming pool, as well as learning the financial end of running a park and the historical aspects of Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park.

“I oversee the operations at the park and try to keep a handle on the budget,” Knapp said of his duties. “Ultimately I am the head guy for any decision making.”

Since taking the position, he has done a lot of reading to learn more about the history of Davy Crockett.

“So much of his life is made up, it’s hard to find the truth,” Knapp said.

Overall, he has thoroughly enjoyed his time at the park so far.

“I have found some places in the park that I love to get out to and watch on a daily basis to relax,” he said. “The people have been great.”

Knapp said he is still undergoing the evaluation phase of what the park needs.

He is looking at everything while taking it all in to see what kinds of changes are needed to enhance the park, such as trail signage and the construction of a new bridge that was washed out.

“I’m hoping to rebuild that this winter,” Knapp said.

There are also some current revamping projects taking place for the 88 campsites, which are anticipated to open again in April. The water, sewage and electricity are being redone, and Wi-Fi service is being installed.

As he looks ahead into a new year, Knapp said he would like to bring historical re-enactments to the park, as well as build a black powder range. He said he hopes to have some turkey shoots, as well as bring some animals — snakes and birds — to the park for some children’s programs.

Knapp said he has also been approached by a local friends group who shared some ideas, which may be implemented in the future.

Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park has a few miles of trails, a swimming pool and the Davy Crockett cabin. The park also sits on the banks of the Nolichucky River and Limestone Creek, offering opportunities for fishing, swimming and boating.

“The Davy Crockett cabin is the big thing. The cabin is a reproduction cabin of where Davy was born in 1786,” Knapp said.

The replica is a common cabin design of that period, Knapp explained.

“We know the cabin was somewhere on the property, but not sure where,” he said.

The structure opens for individuals to look inside to get a better feel for how Davy Crockett lived all those years ago.

Knapp said they recently had a Davy Crockett Christmas. The fireplace was lit and samples of the food people ate many years ago were offered, as well as stories and historical music.

“We hope that people will come out and visit us,” Knapp said, noting the park is always in search of volunteers.

“We are always looking for volunteers, if anyone wants to help out,” he said, referring to projects and telling stories around the cabin about Davy Crockett.