Does Carter County’s future lie in recreation?

Published 12:40 am Friday, July 9, 2021

While other parts of Northeast Tennessee seem to be holding their own with industry, one quick look shows aside from just a few industries
scattered throughout the county, there is not a whole lot of movement from industries outside the county looking at locating here.

However, as of late, there has been a tremendous move of recreational opportunities springing up throughout the area that tends to lend itself to the question – is Carter County poised to make a larger move toward recreation in support of tourism to create a larger tax base in the county.

As long as I have been a resident of Carter County which is approaching 30-plus years, all I can remember hearing from residents is the need for industry to help keep their children and families here in the county.

But as time has passed, it seems that the county is better prepared to draw tourists to the community to take part in great recreational opportunities that the county is beginning to expand on with some of the best trout fisheries in the country, biking trails like the Tweetsie Trail that continue to grow and expand all the way from Johnson City through Elizabethton and in the future to Hampton.

With the recent mutual agreement between the city and the county on Phase 1 of a new biking trail in the Hampton Watershed area of the county, mountain bike enthusiasts can begin adding Carter County to their maps as places to visit as well as the possibility of collegiate competitions on the new trail and further trails as they are built.

One cannot forget the Carter County Omnium which has been a huge success as well.

On Thursday, the Elizabethton City Council approved $38,082.88 to River Restorations for Phase 1 of engineering services for Surf Betsy as the City of Elizabethton continues to march forward to getting needed information into what type of water park could be constructed utilizing the Watauga River that would place a niche in the county that cannot be easily found.

The firm that has been retained was one of three from Colorado who responded to an RFQ put out by the city. That speaks volumes itself in the fact that building a water park like Surf Betsy would put it in a click of its own in the state with the closest engineering firms who understand these types of projects located so far away.

Also, there have been numerous road races that have taken advantage of the beauty of downtown and the Tweetsie Trail with events such as Music and Miles, Firefly 5K, and the upcoming Friday Night Lights 5K sponsored by the Elizabethton and T.A. Dugger football teams.

It is a proven fact that there are tax dollars to be made in recreation and tourism and if that is where Carter County is headed then there needs to be more focus on what can help benefit the county to host events and visitors who are coming to our community.

One of the greatest needs is a new hotel that can offer a place for visitors to stay when they come to play. We have some great Air BnB and cabin locations, but a hotel is still needed.

Secondly, the community as a whole needs to come together and focus on how to become more prepared to welcome people to Carter County so they can see a county that is pulling together for the greater good and waiting with extended arms to welcome guests to our community.

There are a lot of projects that can be completed to enhance recreation and tourism but you first must crawl before you can walk.

Carter County is blessed with people who are seeing what the future holds and it definitely seems like recreation has a big part in that. If one doesn’t believe that, take a pen and paper and take a walk through town or one of the parks and write down all the states that are represented on license plates that are finding their way into the county.

I, for one, get excited at the opportunities that are present and can’t wait to see what the future holds in Carter County with recreation and tourism leading the charge.