Ringgold approves cultural expenditures in effort to draw tourism

Times Free Press file photo / The historic Ringgold Depot is on Nashville Street in downtown Ringgold.
Times Free Press file photo / The historic Ringgold Depot is on Nashville Street in downtown Ringgold.

The Ringgold City Council passed an amendment allocating $270,000 toward various arts and beautification projects at its meeting on Sept. 23.

Earlier this year, Catoosa County received a grant for a resource development team to create a plan to draw more people to the area, Ringgold City Manager Dan Wright said at the meeting. Working with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, the county analyzed local tourism and businesses in Ringgold.

The report suggested several projects the city could pay for using revenue from its general fund, hotel/motel tax, and state grants, said Wright.

The various initiatives include allocating $20,000 for a downtown mural; $175,000 for portable restrooms and a mobile stage that could be used for festivals and other events; and utilizing downtown alleyways as public parks, for which the team proposed spending $75,000.

Gretchen Lugthart, a senior planner with NGRC, said that by approving these initiatives now, the city and county will be able to start applying for state grants in 2020. The various projects will become part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan 2011-2031 Five-Year Update for Catoosa County and the cities of Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe. Last adopted in 2016, the current update expires in 2020.

"You get a chance to work on it a little sooner than you would have [if you wait until 2020]," Lugthart said. "This will get you a head start."

Some of the initiatives are not new. Last year, in another effort to help drive tourism dollars to the county, the Georgia Tourism Product Development Team suggested recommendations and strategies to boost development and tourism throughout Catoosa. In Ringgold, the group suggested painting murals depicting the area's history on downtown buildings and distributing a listing of the city's most photogenic locales, according to a Times Free Press article from last September.

"We've talked about potentially putting something that highlights [the city]," Ringgold Mayor Nick Millwood said at the meeting. "There are a few good places."

The council also discussed making Church Street one-way. Due to a grave in Old Ringgold Cemetery located at a far corner along the roadway, residents have complained of a blocked line of sight, said Mayor Pro Tem Terry Crawford. Millwood said he's spoken to residents who have echoed the sentiments.

Before taking any action, the council is planning to talk to businesses on Church Street that may be affected to see whether they would be opposed to the change.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com

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