On March 28, members of Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) visited the University of the South and Grundy County to see South Cumberland Plateau’s natural assets and the development of tourism enhancement projects. They spent the day visiting various parts of the plateau and Grundy County with Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady and members of the South Cumberland AmeriCorps VISTA Project.
The Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development Amy New visited, along with Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development Brooxie Carlton, Special Projects Director of Rural Development Amanda Martin, ThreeStar Director Jody Sliger, and Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Business Development Jamie Stitt. The folks from TNECD were joined periodically throughout the day with staff and administrators from the University of the South, the South Cumberland Community Fund (SCCF), Mountain T.O.P., the South Cumberland Chamber of Commerce, the Southeast Tennessee Development District, the Stone Door Annex Project, and South Cumberland State Park.
The TNECD group met with members of the SCCF’s board and capacity building committee including Bonnie McCardell, Jack Murrah, Laura Willis, Julie Keel, and Nicky Hamilton. Starting at the University of the South, the tour drove along the existing and future route of the Mountain Goat Trail to hike part of the Fiery Gizzard in Tracy City. The group then visited the Great Stone Door in Beersheba Springs and was treated to a presentation by Sam Baggett and a driving tour by Ranger Bill Knapp through the state’s most recent acquisition, the Stone Door Annex (formerly Shady Valley Nursery). The group then stopped to tour the Methodist Assembly grounds in historic Beersheba Springs.
The visit comes right as Grundy County has received a tourism enhancement grant, which the county, the South Cumberland State Park system, and other various stakeholder groups plan to use to showcase the opportunities for both tourism and other economic development in our area. With the state’s acquisition of the Stone Door Annex, and the abundant natural assets in Grundy County, both Grundy County and TNECD hope to work together to further and begin initiatives to grow tourism-related businesses and job opportunities.