CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — A new welcome center that will be called the "gateway" to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is in the works.
Although the location of the proposed center in Crossville, Tenn., is miles away from the park gates, officials say it is close to Interstate 40.
"The tourism and the visitor center would provide a great stop for travelers. There's over 30,000 cars that pass through I-40," Cumberland County Commissioner Sonya Remmer said.
The Crossville Chronicle and WBIR report that the center be run by Cumberland County officials. It would be located near the Roane State Community College campus, which is about 70 miles from the actual park.
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The city of Crossville has agreed to help out with construction and operational costs. County officials approved moving forward with the plan near the end of May.
Big South Fork encompasses 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee and Kentucky and protects the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River.
County officials said locating the center in Crossville would also help the economy in the area.
"It would be great to promote this exit... We have shopping centers with several local retail businesses," Remmer said.
John Little, who owns the nearby Halcyon Days restaurant, said he would welcome the center because it would mean more people would get off the exit "to check out what's in this area... so they'll pass by the restaurant, and (it will) tempt them to stop."
However, not everyone was in favor of the proposal. Commissioner Carmin Lynch, who voted against the measure, sent a statement to the Chronicle saying that the county would have to either increase general fund tax rates or reallocate funding for current programs in order to pay for its share of operational costs.
Big South Fork officials say they would support a welcome center by adding park rangers.