CAIRO — The commission of a study to determine the feasibility of developing recreational activities around Tired Creek Lake headlines a three-part plan on how the Grady County Growth, Marketing and Development Committee believes Grady County should market itself.
Among the items the committee suggested the study review at the lake, which committee members determined to be the county’s largest and most valuable asset, include the development of an RV park, land and water trails, primitive camping sites and essential water, waste and energy infrastructure. The study, the first of three recommendations in the marketing plan the committee voted to finalize Monday morning, will be reviewed at the Tired Creek Lake Authority's August 3 meeting, which County Administrator Buddy Johnson said will likely become a joint session with the Grady County Board of Commissioners.
“We believe that these recommendations support this committee’s works for a starting point in the strategic plan to ‘grow’ Grady County,” the committee wrote in its final report.
Commissioners will hold the final say on which aspects of the plan, if any, are ultimately enacted. Certain stages of the committee’s recommendations, such as the creation of a tourism board that would be funded by governing bodies within the county, do not directly involve Tired Creek Lake and may not require approval from the Lake Authority at all, Johnson said. The county administrator added that he has spoken with Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton about implementing the concept.
Existing entities, such as the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce and Cairo Main Street, are designed to promote member businesses and downtown Cairo, respectively. Johnson said the proposed tourism board will be “intermingled” with those missions, but will ultimately have a unique focus on promoting attractions to individuals who don’t live in Grady County.
“What we’re doing is expanding that to the county and to the things that we own as well that we’re responsible for,” Johnson said. “When you talk about this board, it’s more about what can we do with our county amenities, and yes, that’s going to reach out to some of our businesses as well.”
Duties to be assigned to the proposed tourism board include the development of a suite of events that will be held at Tired Creek Lake, including annual Independence Day celebrations.
Committee members also recommended that the county quickly identify “pandemic safe” assets that can serve as risk-free attractions until a vaccine for the COVID-19 becomes widely available.
Johnson congratulated committee members on what he said was five months of good work. Among the recommendations the committee has put forward since its inception in February include the creation of a mantra, “Opportunity Awaits,” which the county will use as a marketing slogan. The 22-person committee also identified more than 50 assets, including restaurants, businesses and natural attractions that could serve as draws for visitors.
Johnson said the committee even went a step farther than asked by recommending the creation of a new entity, the tourism board, that will “put the fire behind” the ideas they proposed. The county administrator added that he did not wish to see the committee immediately dissolved.
The committee’s suggestions are designed to take advantage of the Leon County tourism board’s upcoming “Red Hills” campaign, which incorporates attractions in regions bordering Florida’s capital county.
“To me, this is what we’ve been missing,” said lake consultant Will Butler, who served as an adviser to the committee during several meetings. Part of what Butler says is the appeal of the Red Hills campaign is that Grady County can “tell (its) story” through the campaign without spending significant resources.
“We can use other peoples’ money to push our message,” he said.
The only way to be successful in putting Grady County on the map and bring in money “is to put together a program like this with a direct focus on pushing that message out to a broader audience,” Butler said. The lake consultant argued that the three-step plan committee members put forward does just that.
“This recommendation creates a structure,” Butler said. “If you don’t have somebody or something that every day gets up and thinks about making this happen, then it tends to fall between the cracks.”