The Pigeon River provides a natural place for rafting trips in Cocke County. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)
Officials say it's hard to bring in tourists when people bypass Blakely on the way to larger cities.
But with help from better home towns, they hope their new tourism push will make drivers change directions.
It's been the most important project this yea, bringing more people into Blakely.
The biggest problem is changing years of stereotypes.
“Basically we want other people to know how many other things there are to do in Blakely Georgia. It’s not just a little spot on the map. You can spend a whole day with a field trip here.” Better Hometowns Chairman, Jennie Clark said.
In fact, between the murals all over the city and historic landmarks, Blakely has a lot to offer.
“We have the Kolomoki Indian mounds in early county just north of Blakely. That’s an Indian reservation established years ago. They actually have a ceremonial mound two lakes, and the playground and its also a museum.” Blakely mayor Anthony Howard said.
Officials say they'll also be starting a multi-million dollar project to lure people who love the outdoors into town.
“In Blakely we're setting up the gateway project which will be an area east of the town on highway 27 that will allow us to take a swamp area turn it into a park with walking trails and a welcome center to help draw traffic off of 27 into downtown Blakely.” Howard said.
And extra tourism would give Blakely the economic boost it needs.
“It’s very important that’s going to help support our livelihood. We have lots of great restaurants we have cute shops. And if someone’s just passing by going somewhere else on the main highway we still want them to stop because we have things to offer here too.“ Clark said.
“Better hometowns” wants to work with local businesses and other organizations to produce a video to attract tourists, as well.
Construction for the gateway project is set to start in the spring of 2014.