Observation Knob Park, a camping spot for generations of families in Tennessee, held a lottery draw on Wednesday to assign campsites to incoming seasonal campers.
The event marked an important milestone for the park, which has been beset by internal and external turmoil in recent months.
Of the 88 seasonal camping sites available at Observation Knob Park, 65 have been claimed through the lottery process.
The remaining 23 sites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. County officials praised the lottery system as fair and designed to give everyone a fair chance at securing a spot.
In an interview with Herald Courier, Michelle Kennedy, a longtime camper at Observation Knob Park, expressed excitement about the upcoming season and the opportunity to create new memories with her family.
“We’ve been coming here since I was a child, and my kids were raised here. My grandkids are now being raised here, so it means a lot to me,” Kennedy said. “I’m very happy with the spot we got,” Kennedy said.
Former Sullivan County Commissioner Mark Vance, who has camped at the park for around 15 years, also lauded the lottery system as fair and transparent.
“Over the years, there’s been things done out here that I would say have not necessarily been fair,” Vance said.
“I like the system they’ve designed because it’s been fair to everybody that’s applied and I like the requirements. They’re requiring campers to have a VIN number for registration. They have to show proof of insurance,” Vance added.
The lottery process comes at a critical time for Observation Knob Park, which has faced financial and administrative challenges in recent months.
The park’s future remains uncertain, and officials have yet to make a decision on whether to continue operating it.
The situation at Observation Knob Park is part of a broader trend affecting private campground owners and operators in the nearby area.
Many have struggled to stay afloat in the face of economic uncertainty and changing consumer preferences.
According to a recent survey by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, private campground owners and operators across the country are facing a host of challenges, from rising costs to labor shortages to changing regulations.
Despite these challenges, private campground owners and operators remain committed to providing high-quality outdoor experiences for campers and RV enthusiasts.
Many have adapted to the changing landscape by investing in new amenities and services, such as Wi-Fi and shuttle services, to attract customers.
As the camping season approaches, all eyes are on Observation Knob Park and its continued operation. For Kennedy, Vance, and countless others, the park represents more than just a place to pitch a tent or park an RV – it’s a cherished tradition and a place to make lasting memories with family and friends.