By Jill Penley
You may have seen them dining in the local restaurants, or perhaps you have enjoyed the serenity of a campfire together. Maybe you have even followed their tracks up the scenic winding trail, or just noticed a few new folks around town. At any rate, anyone paying attention knows Doe Mountain Recreation Area (DMRA) is bringing visitors to the beautiful mountains of East Tennessee.
Since the purchase of Doe Mountain by the state and the creation of the DMRA in 2012, the area has become a favorite of riders and visitors whose numbers continue to increase. According to Tate Davis, DMRA Executive Director, revenue from permits has increased from $38,645 in 2016 to almost $60,000 in 2018.
“We are excited about the increase in tourism to Johnson County,” said Donna Walker of Doe Creek Campground, who advises many of their customers come to the area to enjoy local destinations. ”We have a good number of customers that come to ride on Doe Mountain,” she said. “We have a large number of repeat customers, who may come for riding the mountain but once they find out the many other things that are in the area they come back again.”
Walker lets customers know all of what Johnson County has to offer.
“Not only do we sell DMRA passes and provide DMRA maps delineating the trails,” she said, “We also provide each guest a list of local restaurants, and places of interest such as Watauga Lake, Backbone Rock, the Johnson County Center for the Arts, the Watauga Lake Winery and the golf course.”
“It is our desire to bring attention to those things that are right here in our area,” said Walker. “We have history museums, Heritage Hall presenting top-quality plays and musical events, historic sites, wilderness areas, eco-agricultural locations.”
Considering Johnson County is one of the top scenic counties in the entire state, it is quite bewildering why the county ranks 71st of Tennessee’s 95 counties in economic impact of travel as compiled by the U. S. Census Bureau in 2017.
While most local leaders agree to tout what this area has to offer could be better, tourism generated $590,000 in State tax revenue and $780,000 in local tax revenue in 2017. In fact, according to the census report, if it were not for state and local taxes generated by tourism each Johnson County household would pay $198.12 more in taxes.