BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Campers at Sullivan County’s Observation Knob Park have been ordered to vacate the park by March 15 as part of a plan to make significant changes to the facility.
All current holders of 178 seasonal campsites were notified in a letter Wednesday from Mayor Richard Venable that they must remove all campers, decks, and other personal items by the March date, according to a release from the county.
The county operates the park, which is located on South Holston Lake, on property leased from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The park’s 2023 operating season will run from April 1 through Oct. 31.
According to the release, the time between March 15 and April 1 will be used to make repairs and allow TVA to perform an inspection while the park is vacant.
“Over the last several months we’ve attempted to address multiple issues at the park,” Venable said in a release. “In December, the advisory committee for the park recommended adoption of TVA’s 2012 length-of-stay guidelines, which include all campsites be vacant for 14 consecutive days each year for property inspection, and use of a lottery system to allocate seasonal campsites upon reopening.”
Changes will be in place when the park reopens in April. There will be more short-term camping sites for stays of 21 days or less. For seasonal sites, rent will change to $300 per month between April and October, which will include water and electric usage. Winter storage will be $90 per month.
“We’re doing all we can to make the park available to more individuals and families, while also looking to improve the park’s financial performance to reduce the cost to taxpayers countywide,” Venable said. “We want as many residents who want to use the park and its campground component to have a chance to as possible to visit the park. We also hope to attract more tourism dollars. The new rent structure is designed to help raise revenue to cover the park’s operating costs. And it is comparable to other campgrounds in our region.”
According to the release, the county shelled out more than $94,000 for water and electricity at the park in the first seven months of the current fiscal year. That’s out of a total of $139,000 budgeted for the park for the entire fiscal year, which still has five months remaining.
“By the end of the fiscal year, utility costs typically eat up the park’s entire budget for supplies and materials,” Venable said. “Our goal is to increase park revenue with short-term rates while hopefully reducing expenses, specifically utility bills.”
The changes are expected to reduce utility costs by as much as 30%.
The park will have 88 seasonal sites for the 2023 season, which will be awarded through a lottery around April 1. Applications will be accepted beginning March 20.