Economic development proponents, recreation enthusiasts, and conservation advocates meet on Tennessee River to mingle and mull over ideas for building a prosperous future
KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 31, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — A recreation symposium at Lake Guntersville State Park in Marshall County, Ala. recently served as a launchpad of sorts for a new movement to rebrand the Yellowhammer State as a national outdoor playground powerhouse.
Organized by the local chamber of commerce, the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Aug. 5 event was designed to showcase the vast and ever-growing recreation capacity associated with the Tennessee River.
“Lake Guntersville is extremely important to the economy and to the quality of life in Alabama,” Chris Blankenship, natural resources commissioner for the state, said in a speech during the symposium. “People are flocking here from all over the country, because they’ve found out this is a pretty dang good place to live, and there are a lot of things to do here.”
“The great outdoor recreational opportunities” that runneth over on Lake Guntersville — which is Alabama’s largest lake — exemplify what makes the state “a wonderful place for people to live and play and work,” he said.
Blankenship’s department is currently embarked upon an initiative to substantially improve links and partnerships among individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and agencies that share an interest in building a stronger tourism economy and encouraging successful, jobs-creating companies from across the country to relocate to Alabama.
Alabama is in the process of establishing an Outdoor Recreation Council that will assess and inventory all the recreation assets and sectors in the state, with an eye toward utilizing them to better market the state as a relocation destination for industry, entrepreneurs, and families that value active lifestyles and premiums placed on community livability.
“Alabama has just not done a very good job of communicating how much great recreation we have,” said symposium participant Edward Poolos, deputy commissioner for the Alabama Department of Conservation. “We know we need to expand recreation, but the first thing we need to know is what all we’ve actually got.”
Partnering Economic Prosperity with Environmental Protection
Eight counties line the banks of the Tennessee River’s four immense reservoirs spanning North Alabama – Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick. Several more counties are home to recreation-rich tributaries that drain the river’s expansive watershed.
TVA lakes are estimated to spawn about $1 million of economic development per shoreline mile, and recreation is a fundamental component that drives regional commercial activity. The Guntersville symposium sought to advance the idea that protecting North Alabama’s Tennessee River water quality to enhance sport fisheries, preserve aquatic habitat and encourage lake play will pay big future dividends.
In recognition of all the various ways river management touches the landscapes, communities, economies, and recreation activities in the region, the Tennessee Valley Authority works in partnership with stakeholders to build relationships, develop shared priorities and implement beneficial programs, the agency’s southern regional vice president, Jared Mitchem, told the symposium attendees.
“TVA has a really strong legacy in North Alabama,” Mitchem said. “It is where TVA started. Wilson Dam, our first hydroelectric dam, is still generating power today. Wheeler, Guntersville, Browns Ferry — 2,000 TVA employees in North Alabama. TVA is committed to North Alabama, and we are committed to this river.”
Mitchem said TVA is striving to encourage constructive economic and cooperative conservation endeavors to promote the region and convince more visitors to come be “wowed by the beauty of this place.”
“I think we are all just so blessed that we can work on this together, and maintain it for generations to come,” he said.
Geotourism Principle s
The benefits of forging concerted efforts aimed at building better city-county-state and urban-rural recreation connections are becoming ever more apparent in the state’s Tennessee River Valley region, said Tami Reist, president of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association.
Reist’s organization serves as a virtual welcome center, business roundtable, and livability-promotion committee for all of North Alabama, and particularly specializes in promoting adventure “trails” that serve as roadmaps for authentic immersions into the region’s culture, cuisine, communities, and traditions, with a special emphasis on promoting historic downtowns.
“All of these downtowns have a story to tell,” she said.
The Guntersville symposium was also designed to align with and advance the principles of “geotourism” advocated by the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council, of which Reist also serves as president. The council’s mission, through outreach efforts like the symposium and publication of newsletters and hosting an interactive website, ExploreTRV.com, is to promote economic growth while simultaneously working to protect and enhance the geographical character of the Tennessee Valley — its environment, culture, aesthetics, and heritage, as well as advocate for the present and future wellbeing of its residents.
“North Alabama’s history is as rich and deserving of recognition and protection as its spectacular landscapes,” Reist said. “We should honor and cherish both as we learn from the past and plan for a future of shared economic prosperity, abundant outdoor recreation, and sustained appreciation for the immeasurable value of keeping our natural environment healthy for all.”
Julie Graham, TRV Stewardship Council, 8655850811, [email protected]
SOURCE TRV Stewardship Council