By Charlotte Smith
The Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce held a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, September 20, at Whimsical Florist’s ballroom.
Joe Miller, an Ecotourism Consultant for the North Carolina Hometown Strong Initiative, spoke to the members about using Bladen County’s “hypnotizing” views, beautiful trails, and local businesses to draw more tourists to the area.
Miller is a newspaper writer, an author of four outdoor books, a hiking and backpacking guide, an instructor, and a consultant for the new Hometown Strong Initiative with Governor Roy Copper.
The Elizabethtown area was the first on Miller’s list of rural communities to partner with to promote North Carolina’s beauty.
“There are about 80 to 100 miles of hiking trails,” Miller said about Bladen County, so you have this incredible resource here.”
Miller explained how chamber members could work with the Hometown Strong Initiative to host a hiking event and create an even more significant attraction for tourism in Bladen County. Miller suggested holding an event to showcase the trails, shops, and restaurants to hiker clubs across the state. He explained that it isn’t as easy in the northeast to get out and hike in the winter, but in the southeast, the weather can be perfect for hiking.
Chamber members agreed with the event idea. Denise Bridgers with Lu Mil Vineyard said, “I think February would be a good time of year to host an event for hikers.”
Mildred Jackson with Faith Partner Christian Supply of Elizabethtown noted that promoting the area’s outdoor recreation opportunities would be beneficial for physical and mental health.
Chamber Executive Director Terri Dennison said, “I’m really excited about it because there is so much opportunity for local people to understand what we have here. We have many great assets to help people be healthy and active.”
Shane Freeman, with Jones Lake State Park, concurred that holding an event in February would bring more people to the area in a usually slow tourism season.
Miller also suggested encouraging local businesses to open one Sunday a month with a “Come explore” campaign.
Further discussion about Miller’s suggestions, Dennison stated, would be discussed at the next Chamber executive board meeting. Contact the Chamber for more information about the proposed tourism/hiking event.
Other information announced at the breakfast meeting are as follows.
- Jackson is celebrating 38 years in business at Faith Partners Christain Supply.
- A clean-up day for White Lake is planned for October 8, 2022. Volunteers may sign up at the White Lake Marina. Door prizes will be given away on the day of the event.
- Experience Elizabethtown radio campaign is currently running on the radio.
- The Chamber will hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the Mermaid Castle on October 14, 2022, and on October 17, there will be a ceremony for WARM, a non-profit located in the incubator building in Elizabethtown.
- According to Dennison, the Chamber will have a booth at each of the leading festivals in Bladen County: Grape Festival at Lu Mil on October 8, the Beast Fest in Bladenboro on October 30, and Pork and Beats in Elizabethtown in November.
*When first published one name was incorrect.