Walker Rocks

Walker Rocks

The Walker County Chamber of Commerce and county government are launching a joint initiative to promote Walker County’s many and varied recreational offerings to a broad market.

Lacey Wilson, head of the local chamber of commerce, described “Walker Rocks” as a way to highlight natural resources throughout the county that are attracting exercise enthusiasts who are ready and willing to pursue their passion in Walker County.

Speaking to the Walker County Development Authority board at its June 12 meeting, Wilson highlighted the area’s unique mix of outdoor offerings.

The area offers caves to explore, trails and roads to cycle and mountains for climbing or hiking. There are waterways and lakes to fish, kayak, canoe or paddleboard. And to top it off, the possibilities range from mild to wild — from family outings where participants will barely break a sweat to extreme adventure athletes looking for excitement beyond category — Walker County has it all.

And June 20 is the official launch of “Walker Rocks.”

Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has noted that tourism is one of the fastest growing businesses in Georgia. This partnership with the Chamber to focus on attracting outdoor enthusiasts to visit the natural wonders of Walker County can reap large financial rewards without requiring major investments.

While this is not directly one of its projects, Development Authority Executive Director Robert Wardlaw pointed out that the success of “Walker Rocks” could benefit economic development throughout the county.

“Fun, we like fun,” he said.

But aside from residents enjoying our natural resources, Wardlaw it is critical to balance property tax and retail tax collections.

Throughout the nation, local governments are aware that residential growth is necessary and a sign of a healthy community, but the taxes homeowners pay is not enough to cover the costs of services they receive. Balanced budgets are impossible without revenue from businesses and retail sales.

“It is critical to balance property taxes and retail tax collections,” Wardlaw said.

The idea is to increase awareness of what is so readily available and will in turn generate spending — both by locals and tourists.

Figures from the commissioner’s office show the tourism industry supported 640 jobs in Walker County in 2016 and generated more than $63 million in direct tourist spending. Since then, the county has grown to become a destination for people seeking outdoor adventures and officials are certain there is plenty of room to grow.

Already, eateries like Pigeon Mountain Grill, Bob’s Brick Oven, Pie Slingers and others are finding that visitors with appetites for outdoor exertion in turn build big appetites they can fill.

Just a few miles away, in Catoosa County, outfitters are making it possible to rent bicycles, kayaks and paddleboards. There is no reason why similar services cannot call Walker home.

“In time, service providers will emerge as the demand rises,” Wardlaw said. “This will be an organic process and not one that costs the county money to promote.

Mike O'Neal is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga. He can be reached at the Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at moneal@npco.com.