The Park is Born
From 1944 through 1964, Bays Mountain served locals in different ways: timber was selectively harvested, hikers enjoyed the early trails and views, while fisherman and hunters challenged their skills. As this usage grew, so too did the public’s interest in preserving the mountain for usage. Thus, in 1965, Mayor Hugh Rule appointed a committee to study ways to possibly develop the mountain into a park. Following the committee’s report, which included hiring a naturalist, the City of Kingsport hired the National Audubon Society to help design a park. Among those representing the Audubon Society was the park’s first director, Robert Holmes.
The National Audubon Society’s recommendations were to designate the area as a nature preserve to also allow hiking, naturalist-led activities, natural history studies, research and leisure activities such as photography, painting, wildlife observation and school day-use. They also recommended building a maintenance shed, a residence for a caretaker and an interpretive nature center. In short, the park was to be of great service to the public, including schools, while also serving to preserve the natural habitat it featured.
As development began in 1968, so did visitation on a very limited basis. Work was still being completed on the service/entrance road and the parking lot remained unfinished, meaning a strict 100 car limit was enforced. In 1969, the park’s first naturalists were hired, one part-time and one full-time, to accommodate visitors and park users.