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Public meetings seek ideas for controlled growth of valley

View of Sequatchie Valley, by Chuck Sutherland.  Used by permission.

Oct. 16, 2107 – What is your vision for the community you call home?

That is the question local officials, landscape architects, and planners asked area residents last week.

In a series of public meetings organized by Farmer / Morgan, public input was encouraged in two categories: Development of the Valley Fest property in Dunlap and the future of tourism in Sequatchie and Bledsoe counties.

Farmer / Morgan is a design firm frequently used by the City of Dunlap to draw up plans for improvements in the city, and they were employed to organize the meetings and produce conceptual drawings that visualize the ideas that people came up with at the meetings.

Will Hargrove, associate project designer with Farmer / Morgan, presents a drawing of a possible entrance-way to the Valley Fest property.

VALLEY FEST PROPERTY

The first two meetings – Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 9-10 – dealt with the future of the 17-acre Valley Fest property in Dunlap.

The open meeting at First Baptist Church Monday gave people the opportunity to make suggestions and brainstorm about what they would like to see, in the future, on that property.

Then, on Tuesday, the designers presented their drawings based on what the people had suggested, and some of the possibilities included:

Benjamin Farmer, principal managing partner for Farmer / Morgan, suggested that the annual Valley Fest celebration easily could be moved to Harris Park, and the property it now uses could be redeveloped into any of the ideas discussed at the two meetings.

DEVELOPING TOURISM

The second series of meetings, following on the heels of the first round, addressed the development of tourism in the Sequatchie Valley.

For three days, Oct. 11-13, Farmer / Morgan moderated meetings at Mt. Airy Golf Course to identify tourism assets in Sequatchie and Bledsoe counties, and to outline several different plans for utilizing those assets to draw more tourists to the valley.

Six categories of tourism were examined: Scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archaeological, and recreational.

Pointing to 2016 statistics that show Bledsoe County at #92 out of 95 counties in the state, as far as tourism income, and Sequatchie County #86, Farmer stated that there is lots of room for growth in local area tourism.

Some of the assets that attendees identified for the valley included the river, the scenic beauty, the mountains, and many outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, rappelling, hang-gliding, and horseback riding.

Improvements of those assets could include:

Attendees at the public meeting discuss how to improve tourism assets in the Sequatchie Valley.

Farmer and his associates pointed out that state and federal funds are more readily available when communities work together on projects, which is why they examined the development of tourism for the Sequatchie Valley as a whole, rather than just in one county.

The Valley Fest meetings were financed with a $10,000 grant through the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Tourism Enhancement meetings were financed with a $10,000 grant through the South East Tennessee Development District (SETD).

Soliciting public input for development plans is a first step in securing state funds to develop these assets.