COCKE COUNTY—United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) recently announced that Cocke County will receive a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for designing mountain bike and hiking trails along the Foothills Parkway in the county. Alexander said the trails will increase tourism and economic development opportunities in the area.
“Cocke County is one of Tennessee’s most economically distressed counties, and these mountain bike and hiking trails will bring more of the 12 million visitors who come to the Smokies each year to Cocke County, which will increase tourism and economic development opportunities in the county,” Alexander said.
“For the past several years, I have been working with Governor Lee, Senator Blackburn, the Conservation Fund, Cocke and Sevier county officials, state representatives and officials from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forest to develop mountain bike and hiking trails along the undeveloped section of the Foothills Parkway in Cocke County. We heard some really good ideas in our roundtables, and thanks to this funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, those are ideas are going to become a reality.”
Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger and Partnership President Lucas Graham released the following statement regarding the grant.
“Cocke County is very grateful to the Appalachian Regional Commission for this award. We are so appreciative to the vision and foresight of Sen. Lamar Alexander, our state leaders, the Conservation Fund, the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This collective effort will benefit Cocke County for decades to come.”
The Foothills Parkway is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Alexander attended the ribbon cutting for the newest section of the Foothills Parkway in November 2018.
There are currently 33.5 miles of undeveloped road in the Foothills Parkway between Wears Valley in Sevier County and Cosby in Cocke County. Alexander has been working with federal, state and local officials over the past few years to develop recreational opportunities such as bike trails and hiking trails so people can experience the Smokies while we wait for funding for the road construction along the remaining miles of the undeveloped section.