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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Whitewater rafting numbers
The Cocke County whitewater rafting numbers for 2017 have been released. County Clerk Jan Brockwell and Rafting Clerk Shalee Benson say the number of rafters dipped this year by 17 percent, likely as a result of the Gatlinburg fires in late 2016. The publicity surrounding the fires led many prospective visitors in other parts of the country to believe the devastation had destroyed much of the Smoky Mountains. Each paying whitewater customer pays a $2.00 rafting fee which goes to Cocke County. Smoky Mountain Outdoors had the most rafters in 2017 with 62,266 paying customers. This year a total of 204,388 individuals went down the Pigeon River. That number includes nearly 169,000 paying customers compared to 202,871 paying customers in 2016. Rafting fees this year brought $337,868 into county coffers, and since 1995, the industry has brought in a total of $5,229,000 in rafting fees to Cocke County coffers. But there are expenses associated with the industry. Cocke County Finance Manager Ann Bryant-Hurst says the county paid $76,000 for rent and salaries of the river Officers. There also were indirect costs including road maintenance, mowing, auxiliary labor and costs associated with the rafting ramps. But Cocke County Partnership Tourism Director Linda Lewanski says whitewater visitors and other tourists mean much more to the local economy. "The state says in 2016 we had tourism spending of about $48 "million, and we ranked 32nd. of the 95 counties, in tourism revenue." That figure includes gas, motels, restaurants, and souvenirs. "We are really thankful for all the resources we have here. It's a great way to boost the way we feel about ourselves. I don't think we realize what a great community we have and the resources. There are lots of other communities that would be very excited to have what we have," added Lewinski.


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