A new initiative is underway in Watauga County to boost economic development and create more tourism opportunities.

The tourism industry is booming in the High Country. Boone and Watauga County's Development Authorities are looking at new strategies to continue building off of that growth.

They started what's called Imagine Watauga. It's a long-range action plan with a goal of adding opportunities in the areas of arts and culture. That could bring things like public art sculptures, music venues and more green space for events. This goes beyond the current master plan that focuses primarily on outdoor recreation.

The projects will be funded from the occupancy tax on lodging from hotels, vacation rentals and other establishments in the area.

Wright Tilley, executive director of the Development Authorities, says it's a reinvestment of local tourism dollars that also enhances the quality of life for residents.

“What we hope to get out of the Imagine Watauga plan is good community dialogue," he says. "And the ultimate goal is for it to be a road map for us for the next you know 15 to 20 years for what to invest in.”

Tilley says community focus groups and an online survey are being conducted to gather the public's thoughts and ideas for the plan. He estimates it will take about a year before the final version is presented to the local tourism boards.

Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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