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Tennessee Valley recognized by National Geographic

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) – The National Geographic Society is recognizing the significance of the Tennessee Valley and need your help.

The National Geographic Society has unveiled the "East Tennessee River Valley" Geotourism Mapguide. The Tennessee Valley will be one of only 15 locations on the Earth featured.

As part of the guide, the National Geographic Society is asking locals to share their favorite destination in the area.

The public is encouraged to go online to www.EastTNGeotourism.org and nominate destinations and events that include historic sites, parks, museums, restaurants, scenic byways, and wildlife areas that make our greater Chattanooga corridor to Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains such a great place to live, work, and play, as well as a world-class tourist destination.

City officials will make an announcement with a press reception on Friday, June 24, with Mayor Ron Littlefield making the "first nomination" and remarks from National Geographic representative Jim Dion.

The event coincides with the City of Chattanooga Office of Sustainability's four-day conference with Citistates Group, a team of international journalists who provide in-depth coverage of regions around the world and best practices in ecology, economy, and culture moving forward in the 21st century.

Office of Sustainability Director David Crockett says, "As Chattanooga is gearing up for a regional long-range planning and visioning process, the National Geographic GeoTourism project is aligned with the Chattanooga region's global leadership as one of the ‘Most Livable Cities' and an ‘Intelligent Community of the Year.' This is important in driving continued environmental and economic development for our area. Sustainable development is a key component of geotourism—it's not just environmental, it also considers the economic and social impact of the tourism industry on our community. Chattanooga has already initiated Green Hospitality and Green Restaurant certification, as well as developing a network of greenways and blueways for outdoor recreation."

The Office of Sustainability and the Department of Education, Arts & Culture are collaborating on this project, which is grounded by a set of sustainable tourism principles, as part of a larger joint effort to educate and implement city-wide sustainability as outlined in the Chattanooga Climate Action Plan and STAR Community Index Goals—focusing on economic development, natural resources protection, social wellbeing, arts and culture.

EAC Administrator Missy Crutchfield says, "Chattanooga has a moment to step up and grab the brass ring we lost back in the early 90s when we had environmental greats such as Bill McDonough (architect), Andre Heinz (environmentalist and son of late Senator Henry John Heinz III), John Todd (entrepreneur and inventor of Living Machines), the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD), and Gunter Pauli (The Blue Economy) in Chattanooga. They have all been recognized for their contributions financially, technologically, and focused environmentally on developing communities that are sustainable, however they found other cities to develop their work after Chattanooga missed this moment. Now the whole country is watching Chattanooga as we learn from our past and create new opportunities economically, environmentally, and culturally. It's time for us all to step up and participate in the National Geographic GeoTourism project as we stay connected and continue to share ideas for making Chattanooga an environmental city and truly sustainable, and help share a new vision for environmental cities across our country and around the world."

After the nomination process closes in August, National Geographic will use those nominations to build the East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism online MapGuide. The site will be launched for a national and international audience later this fall, and MapGuides reside on National Geographic's online sight that averages 10 million viewers per month.

National Geographic Maps Development Associate James Dion says, "The National Geographic Maps Division is pleased to have the opportunity to spotlight this region and, in doing so, support and sustain it as one of the treasured natural places on the globe. The MapGuide will celebrate the area's abundant scenic, cultural and historical attributes from the unique vantage point of those who live there."

The online MapGuide project is being facilitated by the Southeast Watershed Forum, a Tennessee-based nonprofit organization that has been helping communities with quality growth and sustainable development for over 12 years. "We are excited to be offering the first U.S. MapGuide celebrating a major river valley," said Forum Executive Director, Christine Olsenius. "Our rivers are the lifelines of our communities." Principal project supporters to date include the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Chattanooga Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation and World Wildlife Fund's Southeastern Rivers and Streams program. Additional project partners are welcome.

Online MapGuide projects have been developed by National Geographic for nearly 15 national and international sites, including the Central Cascades, Crown of the Continent (Alberta, British Columbia, Montana), Greater Yellowstone, Redwood Coast of California, Sierra Nevada of California, Sonoran Desert (Arizona and Sonora, Mexico), and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. National Geographic Maps was established as a division of the National Geographic Society in 1915 and has been producing maps for National Geographic magazine and other Society groups for 95 years. For more information visit www.natgeomaps.com.

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