CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Tennessee's newest driving trail is the Tanasi.
Starting in Chattanooga, the trail winds through six counties chock-full of history, scenery and attractions.
Tennessee Tourism Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker and local government leaders from the region launched the trail Thursday. Named for the Cherokee word that eventually became the state name, it is one of 16 driving trails in Tennessee.
"We know there are people taking short-hop vacations, people taking one- or two-week vacations," Whitaker said. "Our motto has become we want them to stay longer and spend more. They will stay longer if they have a reason to stay longer."
The Tanasi winds through Hamilton, Bradley, Polk, McMinn, Monroe and Meigs counties. It is part of the Tennessee Trails and Byways Program, said Melissa Woody, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce's tourism and convention vice president.
Whitaker said a 27-page Tanasi Trail guide will help introduce visitors, including international tourists, to the regions outside the big cities as well as Chattanooga's attractions.
"People travel regionally," she told the crowd gathered at the Museum Center at Five Points.
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis agreed.
"Travelers to Tennessee do not really care much about county lines," Davis said. "They are looking for a beautiful place with lots of things to see and do at reasonable prices. If that doesn't describe this region, I don't know what does."
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said that "with gasoline prices the way they are, these short-term trips are very important."
Dr. Carroll Van West, director for the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University, said much of Tennessee's and America's history begins here.
"How can I sum that all up?" he asked the crowd. Holding up the guidebook, he said, "I guess the secret's out."
"It sort of all begins in Chattanooga," Van West said. "This was part of an international frontier that Tennessee was at one time. Today Tennessee is again an international frontier."
The Trails and Byways program includes the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Shawn Bible with the department said, "These trails include world-class attractions, historic sites, fabulous scenery and agri-tourism. ... I think it will encourage folks to stay longer."
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...