Dolly Parton’s love for nature stems from when she was a child, living in her “Tennessee mountain home,” as her 1972 song says.
The 76-year-old country superstar opened up about the importance of caring for the environment in a new interview with National Geographic.
“We should pay more attention. We’re just mistreating Mother Nature — that’s like being ugly to your mama,” Parton said. “We need to take better care of the things that God gave us freely. And that we’re so freely messing up.”
Parton began her interview by touching on her love for the Smoky Mountains, where her famous Dollywood theme park is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. She describes the region as “one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
“When I come here it’s a feeling like nothing else. It has grown, as all things must. But the Smokies will never lose their charm and their magic,” she says.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most biodiverse park in the U.S. national park system, with about a hundred species of trees and over 1,4000 varieties of flowering plants, according to the magazine.
“We got the most radiant flowers, the biggest assortment of trees. The Smokies have a heart of their own,” Parton said. “It’s the way the water flows, the way it sounds, and the way it feels when you get in it. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s my home — but I really don’t think so. I think it’s just one of those special places that God put here for us to enjoy.”
Parton has been inspired by the East Tennessee region throughout her life, touching on her experience there in songs like “Tennessee Homesick Blues” and “Coat of Many Colors.”
Her love also expands to conservation efforts. Dollywood is the American Eagle Foundation’s largest corporate sponsor, the magazine notes. The foundation helps rescue and rehabilitate bald eagles and other birds and is opening a new public facility in Sevierville in spring 2023. It will include a way station for migrating monarch butterflies in honor of the “9 to 5” singer.
The "Jolene" songwriter recounted how, as a young girl, she would “wander off, chasing butterflies into the woods, so they had to come find me.”
“I always related to them because I felt like they were harmless and they were colorful — kinda like I think that I am. They’re just meant to be mine, I think,” she said, noting, “Yes, I have a butterfly tattoo.”
Dollywood opened in 1986. During a press conference in June 2021, Parton and company’s president Eugene Naughton announced plans to expand the theme park. At the time, they announced they would be building a new 302-room HeartSong Lodge & Resort, which would be located down the road from Dollywood.
“I’m so proud of this place that we’ve been able to build here in the Smokies. I always dreamed of accomplishing two things with Dollywood. I wanted to give jobs to the folks who live here and I wanted to give visitors another reason to come and experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountains,” the multi-Grammy winner said in a statement on her website at the time. “We celebrated our 35th season last year, so I think it is fair to say we’ve been able to do that.”