Hartford, TN – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said a $6 million federal grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to construct 50-75 miles of mountain bike trails in Cocke County will help encourage more people that visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to come through Cocke County.
“This is a huge investment from ARC. Cocke County is one of the most economically distressed counties in Tennessee and this investment will help increase the tourism industry in Cocke County by bringing more of the 12 million visitors who come to Smokies each year and the 3 million visitors who come to the Cherokee National Forest each year to the area,” Senator Alexander said.
“This is a result of a three year effort to make better use of the Foothills Parkway right-of-way in Sevier and Cocke counties. The focus was about mountain bikes, and the best land for that in Cocke County turned out to be in the Cherokee National Forest instead of the Foothills Parkway,” stated Senator Alexander.
Senator Alexander continued, “So, I’m thrilled about the 50-75 miles of new mountain bike trails in Cocke County in the Cherokee National Forest. I’m also glad we’re also moving ahead with mountain bike trails on the Foothills Parkway right-of-way in Sevier County. These new bike trails will help even more Tennesseans enjoy the outdoors.”
“This investment will benefit the people of Cocke County, TN, and all Americans who hope to experience the beauty and majesty of East Tennessee’s rugged mountain landscapes for themselves,” Tim Thomas, ARC Federal Co-Chairman, said. “This project is a result of strong support from Senator Alexander, and is an example of his productive advocacy for Appalachian Tennessee throughout his storied career.”
Alexander joined Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-chair Tim Thomas, Tennessee Department of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell, and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe in Cocke County for today’s announcement by the ARC.
“The great outdoors are one of Tennessee’s largest drivers of economic growth and draw millions of visitors every year. Thanks to this significant grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Cocke County will attract even more visitors and the economic activity they bring,” Governor Lee said.”I’m grateful to the ARC and to Senator Alexander for his leadership in securing this welcome investment for Tennessee.”
“We are very excited for this opportunity,” Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger said. “The tourism and economic possibilities this project presents for Cocke County are immeasurable. We are very grateful to Senator Alexander, ARC and all those who have come together to help make this vision a reality.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the award given to the Cocke County Partnership,” Lucas Graham, president of Cocke County Partnership, said.“This project means so much to all of our citizens. It will literally change the face of the County and its economic picture. The potential of tourism activities associated with the success of this project is staggering.”
This will affect our economic outlook for decades to come. We believe in Cocke County and feel this is just the impetus we need to showcase all of our natural opportunities. I want to thank, of course, first of all, Senator Alexander for his vision and exemplary leadership. I want to thank the Appalachian Regional Commission, Governor Bill Lee, TDTD Commissioner Mark Ezell and his staff and the Tennessee Office of Economic and Community Development for all their assistance,” stated Graham
“None of this would be possible without the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and we sincerely appreciate them. And lastly, I want to thank my staff for all their hard work. I also want to thank The Conservation Fund, local and regional chapters of IMBA and those private citizens who provide invaluable input along the way. We can’t wait to see our visitors and citizens enjoying themselves out on these trails,” said Graham.
“First, let me thank all those folks who played a part in this award. From Senator Alexander’s office, ARC, Governor Lee, Commissioner Ezell and his staff, our state and local officials, and of course the GSMNP and CNF, thank you for helping turn a dream into reality,” Linda Lewanski, Tourism Director of Cocke County Partnership, said.
“Cocke County is so rich in natural resources and these monies allow us to shine a light on them. We know that these trails will be a value-add to what we can offer our tourists. We know our visitors love our four state and national forests and our three rivers and this will be the perfect complement for those already visiting them and our vibrant rafting community. We are so proud of the citizens of Cocke County and their commitment to offering exciting and quality venues for our visitors. Thank you all for believing in Cocke County. The Adventure Side of the Smokies” is about to offer a little more adventure!”
“The Conservation Fund was excited to be involved with Senator Alexander, representatives from Cocke County and Sevier County, and staff from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest to develop a planning document that explores developing recreational opportunities on undeveloped sections of the Foothills Parkway,” Ralph Knoll, Tennessee representative with The Conservation Fund, said. “We are thrilled to be here at this event knowing that Cocke County now has the financial resources to further examine the creation of mountain biking trails in the local communities that will benefit the natural resource based economy.”