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Sequatchie Valley joins National Scenic Byways list

Posted on Friday, February 23, 2024 at 12:36 pm

 LACIE SILVA – Editor

The paramount Sequatchie Valley (SV) of Tennessee has been recognized as a ‘scenic byway’ and as a result was added to the National Scenic Byways (NSB) list joining such landmarks like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Natchez Trace Parkway.

At a Rotary Club meeting in August, Jenni Veal, the Rural Destination Development Manager for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development presented information regarding the NSB foundation and Tennessee. She covered the significance of the area and addressed questions from audience members.

In the rapidly growing industry, tourism revenue reportedly was $27.5 billion in 2022 and places TN as the fastest growing state from 35th place to 11th in the past year alone. TN has the highest sales tax in the nation which has been vital for boosting the state’s economy and allowing travelers to support the local businesses. The Leisure and Hospitality Industry alone employs over 352,000 TN residents. As a result, this places tourism as the state’s 2nd leading industry. Tourism is such a significant source of tax revenue for TN contributing $1.8 billion in state sales tax collections were recorded in 2022.

An audience member questioned how the state and government would know what money was spent by residents and what was contributed by travelers. Veal explained that the Department of Tourism utilizes a data analysis algorithm for verification and comprehensive assessment to be within a minimal margin of error.

The NSB is a program separate from the National Park’s foundation and was created to continue the preservation of important places. In 1991 congress established the NSB program to preserve and protect the nation’s scenic byways and at the same time, promote tourism and economic development of the areas. The prestigious classification is bestowed by the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (USDOT FHA) upon areas or roads that demonstrate at least one of six distinctive characteristics: scenic, archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, or recreational.

In 2012, the USDOT FHA provided a National Scenic Byways grant to fund the original SV Scenic Byway’s Corridor Management Plan (CMP), which provided a basic framework for establishing the NSB program in SV and developing it as an effective economic enhancement strategy. The program was discontinued that same year due to budget cuts. However, in 2021 the program was reestablished and funded again with new designations announced for the first time since 2009.

SV was one of the new locations added to the NSB list in 2021 for meeting the scenic, historic, natural, and recreational specifications. It joins other TN scenic byways such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and Natchez Trace Parkway. Individual byways are managed by their own organizations. For SV, the Sequatchie Co. Chamber of Commerce are in charge.

The Sequatchie Valley National Scenic Byway spans 70 miles of picturesque valleys, surrounded by majestic mountains. It’s conveniently nestled within a short drive from major cities like Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville. This route takes you through Cumberland, Bledsoe, Sequatchie, and Marion counties, each with its own delightful downtown to discover. All of these are connected by the stunning 116-mile-long Sequatchie River that meanders through the entire valley for which it was named. Whether you seek thrilling adventures or peaceful relaxation, the Sequatchie Valley offers it all.

The designated NSB in TN fulfill multiple criteria for NSB status, making them natural magnets for tourists. Furthermore, these routes offer visitors genuine, authentic experiences, which research indicates are highly sought after. Travelers who seek authenticity in these communities contribute to the local economy by supporting small, locally owned shops, dining at local restaurants, and staying in nearby hotels and accommodations.

Research on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Natchez Trace Parkway highlights the advantages of having such a NSB designation and reveals the positive impacts on communities situated along Scenic Byways. These benefits include a boost in the local economy due to increased tourism, enhancements in services for both travelers and residents, and a greater recognition and appreciation of TN’s historical and natural assets. In 2021 a study estimated 15.9 million visitors went through the Blue Ridge Parkway and spent approximately $1.3 billion in local gateway communities. In 2023, there were nearly 6.4 million visitors in the Natchez Trace Parkway that spent $178 million and supported 2,100 jobs in surrounding communities.

Further studies can be found at scenic.org and for more information on SV see www.sequatchievalleyscenicbyway.com. For additional information regarding the Scenic Roadways, Michael McClanahan, the Scenic Roadways Coordinator can be reached by email at Michael.McClanahan@tn.gov and by phone at (615)741-0803.

The Marion Tribune – November 30, 2023