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Author: Sydney Goggans

Alex Wyss New Executive Director

The Tennessee State Parks Conservancy proudly announces the appointment of Alex Wyss as its new Executive Director, effective May 1, 2024. With over 30 years’ experience in conservation and fundraising, Wyss brings a wealth of expertise to his new role, where he will lead the Conservancy’s fundraising and preservation efforts to inspire the next generation and expand access to the natural wonders of Tennessee State Parks.


“Tennessee has some of the greatest state parks in the nation and the Conservancy plays a key role in ensuring everyone can enjoy them to the fullest,” said Wyss. “I am thrilled for the opportunity to join this organization and look forward to collaborating with our supporters and the State Parks to preserve, protect and enhance Tennessee State Parks for all visitors to enjoy.”


Prior to joining the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, Wyss served as Director of Conservation at The Nature Conservancy, where he led statewide initiatives in forest, river and farmland conservation from the Mississippi River to the Smoky Mountains. During this time, he developed a passion for integrating conservation initiatives and sustainable outdoor recreation with economic development. Wyss played a key role in helping establish iconic parks and natural areas such as Pogue Creek State Natural Area and one of Tennessee’s newest state parks, Middle Fork Bottoms State Park, a 1,000-acre public recreation gem that’s currently in development.


Wyss earned a Master of Science degree in wildlife sciences at Auburn University and is an alumnus of Florida State University. He’s lived in Tennessee for 25 years and is passionate about spending time outdoors with family, friends and German Shepard, Obi.
“We’re very grateful to bring Alex’s exceptional leadership and knowledge to the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy,” said Bob Martineau, Board Chair of the Conservancy. “His passion for the land, history and people of Tennessee will fuel advancements in the organization’s mission and we can’t wait to see how it flourishes with him at the helm.”


Wyss succeeds Gina Hancock, who has transitioned to Senior Advisor for the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy. In her new role, Hancock will continue guiding strategy, fundraising efforts and organizational growth, drawing on her extensive experience in conservation and nonprofit leadership.

Exploring Nature’s Classroom: Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders

Remember those awe-inspiring childhood field trips where your textbook science lesson came to life right in front of you? That is what the Kids in Parks Program is all about – creating those unforgettable moments for the next generation through investments in educational adventures to Tennessee State Parks.

In March, we supported the seventh-grade class of Cascade Middle School with a trip to Henry Horton State Park for a lesson in water quality and its importance in sustaining life. Along the gorgeous Duck River, Park Ranger Samantha Davenport led the students in hands-on activities like collecting water samples, testing the water quality and observing the critters that call the river home.

As the students experimented, they not only discovered the significance of natural waterways but also got to engage with nature and with each other in new ways. We’re proud to create opportunities for students to explore the outdoors and make lasting memories with their classmates.

Through priorities like the Kids in Parks program and our partnership with Tennessee State Parks, we work to broaden access to the state’s natural areas and resources. This field trip is one of the ways we help ignite adventure, curiosity and imagination in students, one discovery at a time.

To request an educational experience for your class or explore other youth outreach activities, click here.

To support our efforts to fund more trips like these, click the donation button below.

Parks of Possibility: Creating New Memories at Radnor Lake State Park

Will and Candie Ferrell Discuss the Transformative Power of Community at Radnor Lake State Park’s Trail-Ready Wheelchair Unveiling Event


Candie Ferrell and her son Will both foster a deep connection with nature, engaging in recreational opportunities and serving as stewards of their community. Their shared love for the Tennessee state parks system is not unique. The Ferrells are like any other family with a passion for the outdoors, except that their experiences differ from most.

Will was born with severe quadriplegia cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for his daily mobility needs. But this doesn’t stop him from achieving major milestones like walking across his high school graduation stage, working on computers and hard drives, and joining his mom on nature hikes.

Radnor Lake State Park is a longtime favorite for the family. Candie made her first memory there when she was just 15 years old and now, she loves sharing experiences and making new memories with her son, Will.

‘A Day at Disney:’ Radnor Lake State Park Event

On August 29th, 2023, Will and Candie joined the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to unveil the latest fleet of trail-ready wheelchairs at Radnor Lake State Park.

Will tested out one of the wheelchairs, made possible by a grant from TVA to the Conservancy, allowing him to to experience Radnor Lake in ways he wasn’t able to before. Candie likened her son’s experience to a day at Disney World.

“You know that feeling you get at Disney World when people are excited to see you and treat you like a VIP? That was the feeling at Radnor,” said Candie Ferrell. “Will was going straight to the front, meeting all kinds of people and getting their cards. They even helped transfer him into the chair so he could experience life in a whole different way.”

– Candie Ferrell

Trail-ready wheelchairs open access to more trails for visitors with mobility challenges. As Will’s primary caretaker, Candie felt confident that Will was taken care of and prioritized by parks staff, who helped him learn to use and navigate the wheelchair for recreational use.

Empowering Possibility

Candie remembers Steve Ward, Radnor Lake’s Park Manager, highlighting the importance of empowering individuals with disabilities to have their own agency.

“At the Radnor event, I was going to help with the wheelchair when Steve said, ‘Let him see first.’ That was the moment I knew there were people I could trust on site to guide him in a very positive way,” said Candie. “To watch Steve and Will go down that trail beside the lake without me was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ You could hear the angels in heaven singing.”

It is commonly misconceived that people in wheelchairs have limited independence. Will, along with many individuals in similar situations, loves any chance to disprove this belief. On that day in August, both Will and Candie created a memorable experience on the trails.

“One of the beautiful things about the trail-ready wheelchairs is that they allow users the opportunity to operate them independently,” said Steve Ward, Radnor Lake State Park Manager.

“Many of us probably take these moments of independence for granted, but for someone who hasn’t been able to wander down a hiking trail before on their own, doing so at their own direction makes a world of difference. For the first time ever, these automated wheelchairs are designed to provide options and make these opportunities a reality for everyone visiting our state parks and state natural areas.”

Twenty-five years ago, the Ferrells thought placing an electric wheelchair on the park grounds was frowned upon. Now, they know that the staff is happy to go above and beyond to foster a genuine sense of community and support for Will.

“It was like everything stopped when we needed something. Park staff would charge the chair for us and provide transfer assistance. They would accompany Will when needed and keep an eye on the weather. They wanted our experience to be positive and did everything they could to make that happen,” continued Candie.

Sharing the Love

Will’s confidence radiated throughout the event while local news cameras captured the moment, creating an exponential impact for Nashville.

“People at church and everywhere we went said, ‘We saw you on Channel 4!’ or ‘We saw you on Fox!’” said Candie. “It’s what you wish for. The fact that the speakers that day were so passionate about accessibility… I learned so much by listening to them beside the lake.”

Will and Candie’s story underscores the crucial need for park accessibility. All Tennesseans deserve to use state parks as a safe and inclusive environment. The Tennessee State Parks Conservancy works to fund projects that break down barriers and help more of the community experience the beauty and healing power of our parks system.

To learn more about how the Conservancy enhances accessibility, check out https://tnstateparksconservancy.org/enhancing-accessibility/.

For more information on the new trail-ready wheelchair, as well as details on Tennessee State Parks’ current accessibility initiatives at www.tnstateparks.com/about/accessibility.

To help fund more adventure, exploration and wonder, support the Conservancy by clicking the donate button below.

Embracing Inclusion at Natchez Trace

Removing Barriers: Adult Changing Table At Natchez Trace

Natches Trace State Park now has even more to offer, with the addition of an adult changing table designed to accommodate personal hygiene needs for park visitors of all ages, sizes, and abilities. Now, more families can fully enjoy and explore this great park — just like Micah’s.

Adult-size tables work for everyone, from infants to aging adults, and the need for them impacts every demographic, including our veterans. Without access to a resource like this to accommodate personal care needs, the stress of a public outing can be overwhelming and prevent some people from venturing out.

We are proud to support projects that help our community access a safe and inclusive space and to continue widening opportunities for all Tennesseans to enjoy our State parks.

Located in the visitor center of Natchez Trace State Park, this new resource was made possible through a grant from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Tennessee States Parks.

For more information on adult changing tables and available grants, head to the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities website.

For more information about the Conservancy and how to support, click the donation button below.

Enhancing Accessibility at Our Parks

Access To New Experiences At Radnor Lake State Park

At the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, we work to support projects and programs that preserve, protect and enhance Tennessee’s parks system.

Thanks to a generous gift from Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), we are proud to unveil a new trail-ready wheelchair, now available for use at Radnor Lake State Park.

This wheelchair will allow those with mobility issues to hike trails and explore nature at their own direction – something that many of us take for granted every day.

The $136,000 grant from TVA will also fund a trail-ready wheelchair at Tims Ford State Park, an accessible kayak launch at David Crockett State Park and transportation for students at select schools to visit Tennessee State Parks. We’re very grateful for the support as we work in partnership with Tennessee State Parks to break down these barriers and move closer to our goal of becoming the most accessible park system in the nation. 

You can find more information on the new trail-ready wheelchair, as well as details on Tennessee State Parks’ current accessibility initiatives at www.tnstateparks.com/about/accessibility. Tennessee State Parks will update the page when new offerings are made available. Trail-ready wheelchairs are available free of charge. Visitors should contact the park in advance to ensure availability.

For more information about the Conservancy and how to support, click our donation button below:

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