Communities and organizations from the Smoky Mountains to Knoxville and Chattanooga are joining with National Geographic Maps to highlight the natural and cultural attractions of the East Tennessee River Valley region for a national and international audience. The project seeks to contribute to the economic health of communities by promoting “geotourism,” which National Geographic defines as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.”
James Dion, business development associate for National Geographic Maps says, “The MapGuide will celebrate the area’s abundant scenic, cultural and historical attributes from the unique vantage point of those who live there.” The MapGuide project is being facilitated by the Southeast Watershed Forum, a Tennessee-based nonprofit organization that has been helping communities throughout the southeastern United States better protect their land and water resources for over 12 years.
Over 75 people attended a day-long planning workshop held in March to lay the foundation for the project. Susan Whitaker, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and Anda Ray, vice president for Environment and Technology at the Tennessee Valley Authority helped to kick-off the event that was held at the Southeast Trade and Conference Center in Athens. The Tennessee Valley Authority has provided $90,000 in seed funding for the MapGuide and other organizations and agencies are contributing to its development. “TVA sees this project as a great opportunity to work closely with other groups in the region to promote responsible tourism,” Bruce Schofield, Vice President of TVA’s Land and Water Management said. Additional support has been provided to date, by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Tennessee Department of Transportation and the World Wildlife Fund’s Southeastern Rivers and Streams program.
Other National Geographic geotourism projects include Appalachia; Baja California; Central Cascades; Crown of the Continent (Alberta, British Columbia and Montana); Four Corners (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah); Greater Yellowstone; Guatemala; Lakes to Locks Passage, New York; city of Montreal; Northeast Kingdom, Vermont; Redwood Coast of California; Sierra Nevada of California; Sonora Desert (Arizona and Sonora, Mexico); and Vilcanota Valley, Peru.
National Geographic Maps was established as a division of the National Geographic Society in 1915 and has been producing maps for National Geographic magazine and other Society groups for more than 95 years. National Geographic Maps publishes a vast collection of wall maps, travel maps, outdoor recreation maps, atlases and globes. For more information on National Geographic Maps, visit natgeomaps.com.