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2012
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A new website highlights special places in East Tennessee, with many of them being in Polk County.

A new website highlights special places in East Tennessee, with many of them being in Polk County. The front of a promotional postcard features Lake Ocoee and Sugarloaf Mountain as seen from the Chilhowee overlook, and there is a whitewater rafting picture on the back.

National Geographic announced in November that the “Tennessee River Valley” Geotourism website is now online at www.tennesseerivervalleygeotourism.org. The Geotourism MapGuide resides on National Geographic’s online site that averages 10 million viewers per month.

The new website features the region in one of only 15 such projects in the world, and the only river region in the world to be featured.

From nominations recommended by local residents this past summer, over 600 unique historic sites, parks, museums, restaurants, scenic byways, and wildlife areas have been uploaded to the interactive website, and nominations remain open, keeping the website constantly updated with new places, people, and things to do in the corridor from Chattanooga to Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains.

National Geographic started the Geotourism movement in 2002 with the concept of “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and well-being of its residents.”

The online MapGuide project is being facilitated by the Southeast Watershed Forum, a Tennessee-based nonprofit organization that has been helping communities with quality growth and sustainable development for over 12 years.

Principal project supporters to date include the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Chattanooga Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation and World Wildlife Fund's Southeastern Rivers and Streams program. Locally, the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association helped promote and implement nominations in Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties. Executive Director Linda Caldwell serves on the East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism Stewardship Council

The East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide project is funded through June 2012.   While plans are being explored to make the MapGuide self-sustaining in the future, project funding will be needed at a reduced level for 2013 from the initial project funders, corporate sponsors, and those who benefit from the MapGuide, including local tourism organizations and businesses.

The National Geographic Society has worked with community-based alliances to develop similar Geotourism MapGuides in other regions around the world. Online Geotourism MapGuide projects have been completed or are ongoing in the Central Cascades (Oregon, Washington), the Crown of the Continent (Alberta, British Columbia, Montana), Greater Yellowstone (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming), Sierra Nevada (California, Nevada), Four Corners (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah), California's Redwood Coast, Lakes to Locks Passage (New York, Quebec), Guatemala, Newfoundland and Portugal's Douro Valley.

 

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