COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. — A $6 million federal grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will go to build 50-75 miles of mountain bike trails in Cocke County.
Local and state officials gathered Monday morning with Sen. Lamar Alexander in Cocke County to hail the grant as a boon for economic and recreational development. The trails will be in the Cherokee National Forest in the county.
Trail-riding, a growing sport and pursuit in East Tennessee and the Southeast, will help draw more visitors to a small and economically distressed county like Cocke County, which borders North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The idea, Alexander told 10News, is to get some of the millions of people who visit the Smokies every year and go to the national forest to come to Cocke County.
Separate plans also call for mountain bike trails on the Foothills Parkway right-of-way in Sevier County.
"These new bike trails will help even more Tennesseans enjoy the outdoors,” Alexander said in a statement.
Tim Thomas, ARC Federal co-chair, credited the retiring Alexander with pushing for the grant to help Cocke County.
Also attending Monday was Gov. Bill Lee, Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger, Tennessee Department of Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell, and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe, among others.
"The great outdoors are one of Tennessee's largest drivers of economic growth and draw millions of visitors every year. Thanks to this significant grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Cocke County will attract even more visitors and the economic activity they bring," Lee said in a statement.