Rivertowns program celebration

Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless (at podium) speaks Friday afternoon at Wilson Stage on the downtown riverfront, during a celebration for Paducah-McCracken County and Calvert City’s selection for the inaugural cohort of the Tennessee RiverTowns Program. The event attracted a sizable, but socially distant crowd, which included many Paducah Ambassadors wearing their famous red attire. She was joined on stage by City Manager Jim Arndt, City Commissioner Sandra Wilson, River Discovery Center executive director Julie Harris, McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer, Calvert City Mayor Lynn Jones and State Rep. Chris Freeland.

Paducah-McCracken County officials joined with Calvert City and River Discovery Center leaders Friday to celebrate the two communities’ selection for the Tennessee RiverTowns Program.

They are two of 15 Tennessee River communities selected for the program’s inaugural cohort and are starting a journey to become an official Tennessee RiverTown and part of the Tennessee RiverLine, as announced Thursday by the city of Paducah. The RiverLine is described as “North America’s next great regional trail system,” while Paducah-McCracken County and Calvert City are the only Kentucky communities in the program.

Overall, it’s a three-stage initiative that fosters collaboration with river towns along the RiverLine, which is envisioned as a system of paddling, hiking and biking experiences throughout the Tennessee River’s 652-mile stretch, according to tnriverline.org. In celebration, area officials met Friday afternoon on Wilson Stage at the Paducah riverfront to recognize the partnership.

“I think all of us have had an opportunity over our lifetime to reflect on this body of water behind us and the many bodies of water that feed into our community,” said Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless.

“It is such an important thing for us to recognize how important the river is to our commerce, but also the opportunity that presents itself in recreation.”

The Tennessee RiverLine initiative is led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in collaboration with the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership, as stated in a news release. It further stated that communities benefit from economic development and entrepreneurship opportunities, quality of life amenities and “increased access to river experiences that improve public health.”

During the celebration, Harless was joined on Wilson Stage by McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer, Paducah City Commissioner Sandra Wilson, City Manager Jim Arndt, River Discovery Center executive director Julie Harris, Calvert City Mayor Lynn Jones and State Rep. Chris Freeland.

“I think with Calvert City growing and prospering and McCracken County growing and prospering — it makes sense to have this relationship and I think it will be very beneficial to both of our areas, as far as tourism goes,” Freeland told The Sun.

“I like the concept and the work being done and I just fully support it.”

In her remarks, Harless welcomed Calvert City officials that were in attendance and prompted a round of applause for Harris, who she said was part of the conversation since day one.

She called it an “important moment” and told the crowd in attendance it would be a “slow build.” Harless also emphasized it’s part of a long-time, long-term goal, and read three main goals that the community has as program participants.

“No. 1, build regional collaboration to market local assets of Paducah and McCracken County and to share technical knowledge between community leadership, as it relates to recreation on our waterway,” she said.

“To demonstrate the value of local assets to our community members and, once again, celebrate this asset that we have here in a different way than maybe we have before. And to create a vision for capitalizing these assets, such as shared waterway for both commercial and recreational use.”

Jones, who spoke after Clymer, reflected on Calvert City’s founder, Potilla Calvert, and its history with the river. The Marshall County town applied to be part of the program due to its “long history and appreciation of the river,” according to the release. He later told The Sun that the program is exciting to him because it helps focus on a resource that hasn’t been maximized.

Meanwhile, Harris explained that she worked closely with the city and county when Paducah-McCracken County was named one of five communities for the 2019 Tennessee RiverLine Pilot Community Program. In August 2019, RiverLine staff came for activities with residents and community leaders.

“My role today is as a member of the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership — something I’ve been a part of since the idea began four years ago as a vision for North America’s next great regional trail system of hiking, biking and water recreation experiences along the 652-mile Tennessee River, which passes Calvert City before ending here in Paducah,” she said.

She said Paducah-McCracken County and Calvert City’s commitment to the initiative will have “real and measurable” impact on the RiverLine’s vision. To learn more, visit tnriverline.org.

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