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Public opportunity for input on outdoor recreation plan

Staff reports • Oct 22, 2019 at 9:00 PM

Work on a regional master plan for outdoor recreation is moving forward with  the help of $55,000 from the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Wild East Action Fund.

And your ideas are welcome.

With the funds, Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership’s Outdoor Development Program will bring consultant GreenPlay LLC back to the planning table.

The master plan will provide a framework for efforts across eight counties to encourage investment in and development and protection of outdoor recreation assets, businesses and talent.

A series of workshops in Hampton, Johnson City, Kingsport and Greeneville will give the public and area leaders a chance to contribute to the strategic plan for the region’s outdoor promotion.


Individual and small group meeting options require an RSVP:

  • Nov. 4, 10-11 a.m. or 1-4 p.m. at Captain’s Table at Lakeshore Marina, Hampton.
  • Nov. 5, 10-11 a.m. or 1-4 p.m. at the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, 305 W. Main St., Kingsport.
  • Nov. 6, 10-11 a.m. or 1-4 p.m. at the First Tennessee Development District Office, 3211 N. Roan St., Johnson City.
  • Nov. 7, 10-11 a.m. or 1-4 p.m. at the Greeneville Recreation Center.

Recreational Zone Meetings are open to the public, no RSVP required:

  • Nov. 4, 5-8 p.m.. Iron, Roan and Watauga Lake discussion at Captain’s Table at Lakeshore Marina, Hampton.
  • Nov. 5, 5-8 p.m. Bays and Clinch Mountain discussion at the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, 305 W. Main St., Kingsport.
  • Nov. 6, 5-8 p.m. Buffalo Mountain discussion at the First Tennessee Development District Office, 3211 N. Roan St., Johnson City.
  • Nov. 7, 5-8 p.m.. French Broad and Bald Mountain discussion at the Greeneville Recreation Center.

“The willingness of TVA and the ATC to support this effort underscores how valuable our region’s outdoor assets are,” said Roy Settle, a member of the regional partnership’s Outdoor Task Force and treasurer of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Foundation, a new non-profit affiliated with the task force.

“It also shows the appeal of an inclusive effort that respects a broad range of user groups, understands the economic potential and insists on development that protects all these treasures so we don’t ‘love them to death,’” Settle said.

The Wild East Action Fund seeks to “accelerate the pace of conservation within the Appalachian Trail landscape,” according to an award letter sent to the foundation. The $15,000 is earmarked for organizational capacity building.

TVA Recreation Strategy Specialist Clay Guerry said ecotourism is among 10 focus areas within TVA’s natural resources plan, a 20-year vision document for public land management in the Tennessee Valley that’s currently being updated. Projects like this one, he said, augment what TVA can do on its own 293,000 acres of land, 49 reservoirs and 11 million miles of shoreline spread across seven states.

“We’re very active ourselves in that area, but we realize we’re somewhat limited in our impact because we’re mainly focusing on the TVA assets and we want to play a little bigger role in the overall impact ecotourism could have on that area of the Tennessee Valley,” Guerry said. He lauded the work that’s being done in the Tri-Cities, saying it prompted TVA to provide support for this planning process.

Guerry specifically referenced the long-term approach and the inclusion of many user groups and land management entities.

“We’re planning assets for our kids’ kids,” he said. “You want to make sure that you’re building something the community is going to embrace, because at the end of the day if the community’s not behind it, it’s not going to be successful.”

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock serves on the task force and said she is even more confident that completing the master plan will create economic opportunities and quality of life enhancements for the region. “Mountain biking trails like those at Tannery Knobs and Winged Deer Park and other recreational assets make Johnson City a more attractive place to invest and live as well as promoting healthier lifestyles,” Brock said.

“The same holds true across our region. I think wise, region-wide planning and investing will pay great dividends for our area, which has outdoor assets few others can match.”

Brock said having TVA and the ATC invest in this process “tells us we are on the right path.” She said she is optimistic local governments and employers will provide needed funding to complete phase two of the project. The new funding leaves the project within $39,000 of the $154,000 needed for GreenPlay to complete the plan.

A $46,000 economic impact study would follow.

Nationally, the outdoor recreation industry accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending, 7.6 million jobs, $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenues and $65.3 billion in federal tax revenues, according to data compiled by the Outdoor Industry Association.

Since its inception less than two years ago, the Outdoor Development Program has partnered with user groups, agencies such as TVA and the U.S. Forest Service, and others on collaborations that are elevating the profile of Northeast Tennessee’s outdoor assets locally and nationally.

The completed plan will provide guidance for five years. It will allow compilation of outdoor assets into a GIS database, develop ways to track success and quantitatively assess outdoor recreation’s economic impact.

“We fully expect that impact to grow,” said Will Barrett, chairman of the NeTREP Board of Directors. “Corporate decision makers are looking for places with high quality of life because they know that helps them attract and retain talented people, and outdoor recreation is a major part of that equation.

“Our outdoor assets are second to none, and as we work to develop, protect and promote them\ cohesively, this region will be more attractive not just to major employers but to entrepreneurs and people who work remotely.”

To RSVP for the daytime workshop times, email or call Kayla Carter at [email protected] or 423-430-2830.

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