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Senator Lamar Alexander and ARC Announce Great Smoky Mountains/Cherokee National Forest Gateways Initiative

May 2008


KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE, May 10, 2008—Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope today announced a new grant competition for the gateway communities that are entry points to two of Appalachia's most important natural assets: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forest.

The $200,000 initiative, undertaken by ARC in partnership with the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, will provide funding to these communities for projects promoting sustainable tourism while protecting natural ecosystems, landscapes, and cultural heritage. The competition is part of ARC's overall effort to advance asset-based economic development in Appalachia.

"As we approach the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2009, a good way to prepare is to clean up our front yard in these gateway communities and celebrate our heritage," Alexander said. "We must protect our great American outdoors and cherish our local history so it is still there for our children and grandchildren. The initiative by the Appalachian Region Commission will not only benefit the people who live in east Tennessee but also improve tourism around the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest. I'm pleased to join in today's announcement of $200,000 to boost the economy by bringing more tourists to east Tennessee."

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said that "promoting sustainable ecotourism in the Smokies and Cherokee Forest will generate economic growth for the region and help preserve these scenic wilderness areas for future generations of Americans to enjoy. I applaud ARC for its commitment to the people and the communities throughout Appalachia."

ARC federal co-chair Pope said that "as we develop our magnificent natural assets, we have to make sure that we are doing it in the right way. We have to preserve the character of the very sites that attracted the tourists in the first place. We have the beautiful public lands. They're not making any more of them in the future. So we need to maximize their economic potential now while taking the best possible care we can of them. And that's exactly what this new initiative does. This is the right time; this is the right place; and it's good business."

Tennessee Congressman David Davis said, "With an abundance of history, heritage, and tourism surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forest communities, I am happy to announce an ARC grants competition with Senator Alexander and Anne Pope. With the hard work from its citizens over the course of many years, this area of east Tennessee has proven to be a tourism center. This new grants competition will help spur economic development in an environmentally friendly way that preserves the natural beauty of this area while continuing to make east Tennessee a family tourism destination for many years to come."

Communities can request funding to implement a specific project or activity related to natural or cultural heritage tourism, community planning, asset building, recreational development, or other activity that will enhance the area's unique identity as a gateway to the Cherokee National Forest and Smoky Mountains.

Examples of an eligible grant project or activity include:

  • Creating, signing, and marketing guided thematic tours—such as biking, hiking, climbing, and birding experiences—that explore the area's recreational assets.
  • Establishing a local artisan guild to improve the capacity to create, market, and sell handcrafted products.
  • Producing a Web site with downloadable video and audio tours of popular attractions.
  • Developing a gas-powered generation system from a closed landfill.
  • Installing recycling centers and promoting their use to residents and visitors.
  • Upgrading downtown streetscapes to build the economic viability of main streets and attract more visitors.
  • Supporting land-trust initiatives and land-use controls.

Nonprofit organizations, local governments, public educational institutions, and local and regional development organizations located in a town or county adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or the Cherokee National Forest are eligible to apply.

Applications will be evaluated on several criteria, including articulation of need, capacity to perform the work, level of community support, project sustainability, and project results.

Details on the grant competition and information on submitting an application are included in the competition's request for proposals. The deadline for submitting applications is June 27, 2008. Winners will be announced this summer.

For additional information, please contact Molly Theobald at the Appalachian Regional Commission at (202) 884-7767 or