COCKE COUNTY—A new Cocke County Outdoor Association (CCOA) is in the works after the group recently held their first meeting to discuss the area’s natural resources, and how to utilize them to attract tourists and boost the local economy.

Mayor Crystal Ottinger, Community Development Director Gary Carver and County Partnership’s Director of Finance Jennifer Brown, attended the meeting with CCOA members Gaynell Thomas, Michael Sledjeski, Leslie Gibbens, Terry Ball and a Walk in the Woods Hike Club owner Vesna Plakanis.

The group worked to develop the next steps for the association. Local resident Kevin Flint was guest speaker. Flint currently works as an outdoor gear tester and marketer for outdoor companies.

Market and Network

The goal is to properly market the county’s wealth of tourism hotspots and outdoor adventures, while maintaining preservation.

“Preservation is a main focus in all of this,” said Gaynell Thomas.

Flint displayed a Pigeon Forge Visitor Magazine and said several of the photos on the front of the book were actually spots in Cocke County.

“They’re marketing these beautiful areas as part of their tourism, but these are hear in this county. We should be marketing that,” Flint said.

An idea the group agreed upon was to cater to the population of tourists that are looking for true nature and outdoors without all the congestion and “noise” of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Members would also like to see activities such as biking, hiking, kayaking, birding and the many other outdoor ventures be compiled into one working unit that would connect through an outdoor network.

The next meeting of the association will be held on Wednesday, February 19 at 1 p.m. at the East Tennessee Coffee Shop. A separate room has been reserved for the event.

Anyone wanting more information can join the group’s Facebook page at Cocke County Outdoor Association.

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