Link to ARC home page.

ARC Announces Winners of Great Smoky Mountains/Cherokee National Forest Gateways Grant Competition

September 2008


WASHINGTON, September 8, 2008—The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced the winners of its "Gems of Appalachia" 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.

Grants totaling $259,000 were awarded to seven winners from the states of Tennessee and North Carolina 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.

Grants were awarded to:
  • Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association, to educate community leaders on tourism sustainability and development, land planning, and regional integration.
  • Great Smoky Mountains Association (Tennessee), to develop audio and video podcasts on natural and cultural history, recreational opportunities, and local tourist attractions.
  • Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center (North Carolina), to expand a summer arts series of events featuring Scots-Irish and Cherokee entertainment, as well as food and educational themes.
  • Jackson County Chamber of Commerce (North Carolina), to develop a comprehensive music and arts initiative for the Sylva-Dillsboro area.
  • Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, to add video and audio tours to its Web site and develop GIS-configured biking and hiking trails.
  • Cocke County Partnership (Tennessee), to create a water recreation system for Douglas Lake and the French Broad, Pigeon, and Nolichucky Rivers.
  • Unicoi County (Tennessee), to develop a strategic economic development plan with emphasis on sustainable tourism, compatible land use planning, and smart growth practices.

ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope congratulated the winners, noting that they were "building on the unique beauty and heritage of the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Their creative proposals will not only help to economically develop the Appalachian Region's magnificent natural assets, they will help safeguard them for years to come."

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander stated that he was "pleased to join in today's announcement of over $250,000 to boost the economy by bringing more tourists to east Tennessee. A good way to prepare for the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2009 is to clean up our front yard in these gateway communities and celebrate our heritage. We must protect our great American outdoors and cherish our local history so it is still there for our children and grandchildren."

U.S. Senator Bob Corker said, "The Great Smoky Mountains and Cherokee National Forest are truly natural wonders. Through sustainable tourism, we can both preserve these scenic wilderness areas and generate economic growth for the Appalachian Region. I applaud ARC for its continued support of the people and communities throughout east Tennessee."

U.S. Congressman David Davis said, "I am pleased to learn that these awards have been made to promote the rich heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains. The grants will contribute significantly to enhancing our magnificent region, to conserving its natural resources, and to continuing an honored tradition of creating economic development for the people of the First Congressional District and their communities.