published Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Spring City puts focus on outdoor tourism

SPRING CITY, Tenn. -- Outdoor activities and "adventure tourism" were topics of discussion as Spring City residents and economic officials explored ways to boost tourism at a recent workshop.

Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, told more than 40 people at the city's municipal building that outdoor recreation "should be major" for Spring City.

Mayor Mary Sue Garrison said the Rhea Springs Day Park reopened in October after state Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker visited the park over a year ago, via a pontoon ride, and saw its potential for development. Soon afterward, Tennessee Valley Authority officials agreed to "let the county open up" the park, Garrison said.

Jones told local officials they could offer a pontoon-ride color cruise and create tourist packages that could include the Tennessee Valley Theatre and hotel accommodations, especially for seniors and church groups.

Cindy Milligan, tourism director for the development district, informed the crowd they needed to use their resources to implement the "Tennessee Adventure Tourism and Rural Development Act of 2011" and seize the opportunity for a $4,500 increased tax incentive for every nonseasonal job created in the city.

"Adventure tourism" topics discussed included rock climbing, walking, trail riding and whitewater activities at Piney Creek.

At the beginning of the meeting, economic leaders gave those assembled cards to list a recent city they had visited and the reasons they would want to return there. Branson, Mo., and Sevierville, Tenn., topped the list for their entertainment offerings and family appeal.

Milligan said tourism "is a good business to be in," and that Tennessee's tourism had increased 8.8 percent since 2009.

Spring City now offers a scavenger hunt in the spring, the Shake the Lake fireworks and entertainment day in July and a Christmas parade in early December.

Jones asked Spring City officials if they had an active merchants association, such as a MainStreet program.

Commissioner Terry Smith said they did not.

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