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Former U.S. Senator Howard Baker Welcomes ARCís Gems of Appalachia Grant Competition for Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

January 2009


WASHINGTON, January 16, 2009—The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), in partnership with the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, today announced a new grant competition for gateway communities that are entry points to one of Appalachia's most beautiful natural assets: the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

The $200,000 "Gems of Appalachia" grant competition will provide funding to Appalachian communities to promote sustainable tourism, preserve natural resources, support locally owned businesses, encourage outdoor recreation, and celebrate their unique identity.

The competition, part of ARC's asset-based economic development initiative, fosters partnerships between gateway communities and neighboring public land managers to develop the tourism potential of Appalachia's most cherished landscapes while protecting their natural ecosystems.

Former U.S. Senator Baker of Tennessee, who 34 years ago sponsored the legislation that made the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area a federal reserve, welcomed the grant competition: "You are not likely to find more spectacular scenery anywhere east of the Rockies than you will find in the Big South Fork," he stated. "People in its surrounding communities have been extraordinarily close to nature through the generations, and this initiative will help them promote tourism while protecting and preserving the area's rich diversity of natural and cultural resources."

ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope said, "Appalachia's future depends on maximizing the potential of its vast natural resources, including the more than 30 million square miles of public lands in the Region. This is an exciting new initiative that will enhance the attractiveness of the communities surrounding Big South Fork, one of the true gems of Appalachia. It will not only create jobs; just as important, it will help safeguard the pristine beauty of the area."

"Appalachian Regional Commission infrastructure grants have long been crucial components of economic growth in Tennessee's 50 Appalachian counties," said Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. "I'm very pleased to see ARC introduce this new grant program that will benefit our efforts to protect and preserve our state's special places and promote sustainable tourism to create more economic opportunities for Tennesseans."

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said, "These grants are great news for all Tennesseans who love our great American outdoors. They will help bring more money into the local economy, encouraging growth while focusing on preservation and conservation of these beautiful locations."

U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said, "ARC continues to be a great partner with the people of east Tennessee. I'm pleased that through this competition, communities will have the opportunity to develop sustainable projects that will strengthen economic development in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area."

"Tennessee is blessed with a beautiful and unique landscape, especially with regard to Big South Fork," said U.S. Congressman Lincoln Davis. "We should be doing everything we can to protect these lands for future generations to enjoy and use them as assets to promote tourism and encourage outdoor recreation. I applaud ARC's Gems of Appalachia initiative because I strongly believe there needs to be a healthy partnership between gateway communities and neighboring public lands."

Applicants 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 activities that will enhance their communities' unique identity as a gateway to the Big South Fork region.

To encourage participation in the competition, ARC will host two community forums on developing sustainable asset-based economic development projects. Dates and locations of these forums are to be announced.

Nonprofit organizations, local governments, public education institutions, and local and regional development organizations located in Tennessee's Scott, Fentress, Pickett, and Morgan Counties, and in Kentucky's McCreary, Wayne, and Whitley Counties, are eligible to apply for the grants.