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Alan Wasik

Zebulon:

Let’s talk a little about the Pickett State Park. Just give us a little synopsis on the park’s history beginning with how and when the park got started.

Alan:

The land [approx. 12,000 acres] for the park was donated [to the State of Tennessee] by the Stearns Lumber and Coal Company in 1933, which is based in Kentucky.

It was run by the TennesseeDivision of Forestry for a number of years, and then transferred over to TennesseeState Parks. The initial construction of the Park was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corpsunder the direction of the National Park Service.  An advisor from the National Parks System would come in and tell them what to build and where to build it. They built a 12 acre lake and dam, 5 cabins, a recreational lodge, a boat house and a lot of the hiking trails and seven trail shelters located around the lake.

Zebulon:

The first part of the park that you showed me was the museum. Let’s go back a little and talk about this new addition to the park.

Alan:

The Park Museum was originally the park office, or what the blueprints called the Contact Station. It was used [in that capacity] until the early 1970s when a new visitors center and park office were constructed. The old office was vacant for nearly 40 years and was mainly used for storage. At one time I think they tried to use it as a ranger station, but it just never seemed to work out.

Zebulon:

It’s kind of small.

Alan:

Yes, it is small and it had electrical problems. [Pause] Plus there was no heat or air conditioning[laughter]. We had always envisioned having a museum in the park and using that building.

Zebulon:

And the museum is used to highlight the CCC. And I know that the CCC worked throughout the state at different parks, but why is this park chosen as a memorial to their work?

Alan:

Because it was one of the first parks built by the CCC – in a way I would hate to say park – since the forestry service ran it first, it was really the first recreation area built by the CCC. Back in the 80’s a lot of the past CCC workers got together and they changed the name of Pickett State Park. The official name now is Pickett CCC Memorial State Park. They did this through the State Legislature.

Zebulon:

So in building the museum you hope to show the whole history of the park’s construction, and at the same time, feature the history of the CCC.

Alan:

Yes, that is correct.

Zebulon:

Do most of the artifacts you have come from the people who served here?

Alan:

Yes, most came from this area, which is another reason why we chose to build a museum here. Over the years we had several CCC workers come to us to donate their old documents and photographs to the park.

Zebulon:

When did you first start meeting these guys?

Alan:

Well, I started here in 1998 and that is when I first started meeting them at Pickett. I had previously worked at five other parks that were built by the CCC, so I have had other interactions with the CCC workers, but this is the first [park] I have managed and I had these guys donating items and asking me to keep their artifacts from getting lost. They wanted to give something to show the work that they did here.

Zebulon:

Did the idea for the museum start before you came to the park, or since you have worked here?

Alan:

I’m not sure if the previous manager had any plans, but a lot of the CCC members were telling us that we needed a place to preserve and showcase their story, and that was when we got the idea of using the old park office.

Zebulon:

So these CCC guys now must be in their 80’s. How many of [the workers] are you in contact with now?

Alan:

There are about six CCC that I am aware of and stay in contact with.

Zebulon:

Did all 6 come from this general region?

Alan:

Well, no. There is only one that is living in Jamestown now.  The rest of them are in other areas of the state. There is one in Dickson, near my home town. There is one in Nashville, and one in Jackson that we know of. Last year we traveled to Middle TN and interviewed a lot of these guys.

Zebulon:

So they came from all over.

Alan:

Yes. There were two camps at Pickett: one at the modern day group camp and the other where the forestry complex is located. The story is that one camp was for local folks that they had hired and the other camp was for young men from the big cities up north.

Zebulon:

They had to segregate them? [Laughter]

Alan:

They did. That was one of the things I have been told over and over again. They had to separate them because they were fighting all the time.

Zebulon:

As a park manager do you ever find yourself and the park in conflict with its surrounding communities?

Alan:

Not much at all. This park is so old and well established that the community really embraces it. They call it “Pickett Park”. They don’t say State, just “Pickett Park”.

Zebulon:

I remember that when I visited Howard Duncan at Big South Fork that was one of the things he talked about – that there were tensions between locals and Big South Fork.

Alan:

We don’t see much of that. We have very few law enforcement problems here; it’s a rustic park with a lot of the same visitors returning every year.

Zebulon:

That’s pretty reassuring - that it just takes time.

What’s the most difficult part of your job and what is the most rewarding?

Alan:

We have had some great ideas that could enhance the park and we can’t always implement them due to the lack of personneland funding.

Zebulon:

Yeah, the longer that I have my job with the Alliance for the Cumberlands the more I realize that great ideas – there is no limit to them, but the funds that can actually be used to implement them are very limited. So you have to be very careful about where you are placing your energy.

Alan:

Yeah. I like being creative, and the museum is part of that. Its fun doing this type of work, but it takes a lot of time and effort. The good part about the job is projects like that, but also just being outdoors - being in nature, seeing an overlook, climbing a bluff, and interacting with the visitors of course.  I would say that 99% of the visitors that we have worked with and interacted with are concerned are great people.

Zebulon:

Where are most of the visitors coming from?

Alan:

A lot of our day use is local. They come from Jamestown, but we get a lot of people from Cookeville and a lot of people from just across the state line in Kentucky.

Zebulon:

Lexington?

Alan:

Not really. Most of them are actually locals to us who come from just across the state line in Wayne County – Monticello, Somerset, those areas. When we have our music festival on Labor Day I would say that almost half of the people are from Wayne County KY.

Zebulon:

In closing, what would you say is unique about the park?

Alan:

I would say that Pickett is an old fashioned rustic park. What I mean by that is you can rent a cabin or get a camp site and you can walk to everything in the park. We have an old fashioned, lake swimming area, we have boating and numerous hiking trails. You can leave your car parked and walk the entire park.

Zebulon:

Do you get a lot of visitation from visitors of the Big South Fork?

Alan:

We do. Especially since we have cabin rentals. They don’t have any cabin rentals in Big South Fork except for Charit Creek Lodge, so we have a lot of people stay with us and explore both areas – Pickett and Big South Fork.

Zebulon:

Thanks for your time today and for showing me the park. Good luck with finishing the museum and I hope to see you on Labor Day for the annual music festival you will be hosting here at Pickett.

Location

Pickett State Park
United States
36° 34' 21.0972" N, 84° 48' 47.088" W
AttachmentSize
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