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County focuses on access at signature lake

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

Governor Bill Lee announced the Bill Dance Signature Lakes initiative at the end of 2021. This capitalizes on Dance’s notoriety to help drive tourism. Recent news shows that Johnson County is home to one of the 18 chosen lakes in the state, gaining a small piece of the $15 million set aside to help tourism in Tennessee. Watauga Lake and its access will be the focus for the local tourism boost.
“One of the goals they have is to have at least one access point in each county,” County Mayor Mike Taylor explained. “Tommy Poore and Jimmy Lowe were able to come with me. He wanted a couple of county commissioners from down in that district to kind of view the area along the lake.”
Locals have been concerned about boating access since a natural disaster decommissioned the Sink Mountain Boat Ramp in 2019. Steps with the TVA, TWRA, and National Forest have been started, but the project has hit a roadblock and will likely not be complete until 2023 at the earliest. That is why the current access project will focus on a different site.
“That’s really not what the Bill Dance Signature Lake thing is all about,” Taylor told the commission. “They want something they can open up pretty quick and try to drive tourism into town. If you think about it, behind agriculture, tourism is the biggest revenue generator in the state of Tennessee, and it’s catching up pretty quickly.”
The initiative is reportedly working towards a faster change. That is why officials are focusing their sights on Bay View Campground. This area has public access that is currently used, and the county hopes to expand parking opportunities to capitalize on it further. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Executive Director of Economic Development and Tourism Dennis Tumlin suggests reaching out to the TVA to get access to land they own in that area to expand the current two parking spots by up to ten.
There is a road measuring approximately twelve-hundredths of a mile cutting into the area. According to Road Superintendent Jeff Wagner, it needs to be cleaned up but is an easy fix. The county road list shows it as county property, but debate broke out on whether it truly counted, as it was formerly a state road that was abandoned and supposedly had not officially been transferred to the county. According to Commissioner Rick Snyder, “the county doesn’t have any business on that road.” Taylor is looking into that claim as well as a possible contract clause with Bay View that could be useful moving forward.
At this point, the process is ongoing. The commission formed a Lake Access
Committee consisting of Berna Arnold, Mike Taylor,
Jerry Gentry, Jimmy Lowe, Tommy Poore, and Jerry Grindstaff. Keep an eye out for more information in the future. For more information about the Johnson County government, visit