Clay County will be one of several focus areas for TDEC’s newly-launched initiative to heighten tourism industries in rural and distressed counties.
Brian Clifford directs the Tennesse Bureau of Parks and Conservation Strategy and Support Office. He said that Clay is a significant area for the initiative because of its natural richness. Clifford said the goal is to grow rural economies by highlighting what they have to offer.
“And places like Clay County have a ton to offer outdoor enthusiasts people that want to get out in nature, spend some time, stay overnight, go hiking,” Clifford said.”Do things that will enhance their wellbeing and give them more appreciation for the beauty of Tennessee and particularly Clay County.”
Clifford said they plan on highlighting Standing Stone State Park, Standing Stone Forest, and Dale Hollow Lake, which border the county. He said that the pandemic has shown that Tennessee has an appreciation for parks and natural spaces, with people using them more than ever. Clay is one of nine distressed counties in the state. The new state program will use state parks to build the local economy.
Clifford said that through this initiative they hope to aid barriers that previously prevented these counties from doing this kind of work.
“Our goal is to try to eliminate some of those barriers and get creative and find out ways we can lean on existing resources to cover those matches. Sometimes a grant can cover the match for another grant and local folks may not know that. So getting our experts, our grant experts these land management agencies, over there and others that are responsible for grant management all together to talk about potential projects will hopefully eliminate barriers but also hopefully provide some support for those local governments, the local stakeholders to actually seek grants and be successful with those grants.”
Clifford said that the next steps will be to meet with Clay officials to discuss how best this initiative can help the county grow in its tourism endeavors and boost its economy.