June has been designated Great Outdoors Month, and we here in Northeast Tennessee have a lot to celebrate. Press Outdoors columnist Johnny Molloy nailed it last week when he wrote: “Residents of the greater Tri-Cities, including Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina, live in an incredibly scenic land, a place where mountains tower thousands of feet above bucolic valleys, a land where placid lakes lie still beneath resplendent ridges, a land where brawling rivers cut deep gorges through majestic highlands.”
Molloy also noted that in “this diverse terrain and habitat, we find variety in our hiking destinations.”
All the more reason we locals should get out and enjoy that variety and encourage tourists from places lacking such beauty to visit our region.
Adventure tourism and ecotourism are growing components of the travel and recreation industry, and there are few places in the world that offer all the natural amenities found right here in Northeast Tennessee. We have the Appalachian Trail, trophy trout streams, pristine lakes and rivers and magnificent mountain views — mostly unspoiled by overpopulation, development and pollution.
Adventure tourism allows us to keep it that way by inviting others to come for a friendly visit. Tennessee officials say outdoor recreation generates $8.2 billion annually in direct consumer spending in this state, in addition to providing 83,000 jobs.
One recipe for success in adventure tourism is for communities to team up with state and federal agencies and involve local residents and businesses in the development of outdoor parks and recreational activities. That’s why projects like the Tweetsie Trail, the first phase of which (as we reported last week) will be opened by Labor Day, are so important to the area.