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Local non-profit seeks economic growth through organic tourism

Johnson County Trail Association is working with Doe Mountain and pursuing easements to extend the Laurel Creek Trail. In the future, the organization’s vision is to develop trails in communities like Shady Valley or Trade.Submitted photo

By Veronica Burniston
Freelance Writer

After two decades of diligent plodding, the Johnson County Trails Association (JCTA) continues to pursue its vision of connecting communities by creating a trail system throughout Johnson County. Initially formed in 2001 as the Johnson County Trails Committee, JCTA developed after an “economic revitalization meeting” held by the Town of Mountain City. The organization comprises individuals who believe a network of trails joining the local communities would build a firm foundation for greater economic growth through an organic form of tourism.

A prime example of successful organic tourism is the neighboring Virginia Creeper Trail and its role in the revival of Damascus, Virginia. In 2003 JCTA gained non-profit status within the state of Tennessee. In 2006, the Town of Mountain City and the Johnson County Commission acknowledged JCTA’s mission by backing the “Johnson County Trails Plan.”According to the Trails Plan, JCTA’s primary goals are as follows:

1. To develop a “county-wide multi-use trail network” to serve local residents. JCTA envisions trails not only connecting the communities within Johnson County but also to trails in neighboring counties, such as Washington County’s Virginia Creeper Trail.

2. To encourage the use of local trails for recreation, transportation, and tourism. Within the Johnson County Trails Plan, JCTA focuses on the benefits of local trails and greenways. For example, trails benefit communities recreationally and economically by encouraging people of all ages to spend more time outdoors, whether it be hiking, jogging, fishing, or family picnics. Trails also provide alternative transportation opportunities, such as walking or bicycling to downtown locations instead of driving.

In addition, trails offer stewardship opportunities with local land and wildlife. As stated within the Trails Plan: “Greenways and trails…can serve as habitats for native wildlife and vegetative species, conduits for wildlife migration, filters for our air and water, preserve for our natural resources.”Currently, JCTA is working with Doe Mountain and pursuing easements to extend the Laurel Creek Trail. In the future, the organization’s vision is to develop trails in communities like Shady Valley or Trade.

Through its ongoing efforts, JCTA hopes to “cultivate an appreciation for the history, culture, geography, and unique ecological character of Johnson County.” In the past, JCTA provided guided hikes, summer day camps, and an annual 7th-grade hike with the Johnson County Middle School. Unfortunately, the organization is currently unable to maintain these activities due to a need for membership. JCTA will hold a “revitalization meeting” this summer to welcome individuals who share its vision and who wish to join in the long climb ahead.For more information about the Johnson County Trails Association, please contact Linda Moon at 726-4944.