Sustainable tourism boon to businesses, travelers and environment

Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp., stands atop the smooth grass roof of Beale Street Landing. The roof, which will lower the building's cooling energy consumption considerably, was added to the Beale Street Landing project in order not to interrupt the flow of Tom Lee Park.


Benny Lendermon, president of the Riverfront Development Corp., stands atop the smooth grass roof of Beale Street Landing. The roof, which will lower the building’s cooling energy consumption considerably, was added to the Beale Street Landing project in order not to interrupt the flow of Tom Lee Park.

Residents of several communities north of Jackson, Tenn., watched carefully as a 175-year-old antebellum house called the Neil House was driven 30 miles along I-40 from its original site in Trenton to Casey Jones Village in Jackson.

Power and telephone lines had to be lifted in spots, and service was briefly interrupted, but people were happy to see the house, which had been less than a week away from a scheduled demolition, move in one piece to a new home and a new life as part of one of the larger tourist attractions along the I-40 corridor in West Tennessee.

Turns out that the move done to preserve culture and heritage also is helping the environment.

«We were doing ‘sustainable tourism’ before we knew the word,» said Clark Shaw, owner of the Brooks Shaw & Son’s Old Country Store at Casey Jones Village. «There’s no way that you can build the character into a new building that an old building has. There’s just something about walking through a 175 year-old home. It’s magical.»

And just like magic, Tennessee is becoming a national leader in the concept of using tourist attractions to sustain the environment while drawing in tourists who seek to support all things green.

«We think from the reactions we’re getting, there’s a great encouragement,» said Shaw, referring to the recent opening of the restored house, now called Providence House. So far, it has hosted special events like a wedding, a corporate meeting and a high school reunion.

«We thought it would be something unique and different, and we’re hearing that from other people now,» Shaw said.

Providence House is the latest restored and relocated building to join the village alongside the 107-year-old Brown’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church and Shaw’s

father’s first country store, built in 1925, both of which came from Haywood County. A fully restored 1948 Pull

man train car also stands beside the Casey Jones Home and Museum.

Currently, the Shaws are looking for a larger church to move to the village, and they recently purchased a small hunting lodge of the same period.

Gone are the days when Tennesseans thought of «tourist traps» as places where litter barrels overflow, gifts shops filled with cheaply manufactured knickknacks crowd the scenery, and people pass through not thinking about what they leave in their footprints, said Susan Whitaker, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development in Nashville.

Instead, tourism often helps sustain the natural beauty of the state.

«I’m sure somebody was thinking about it a long time ago,» said Whitaker, who spearheaded the concept of sustainable tourism back in 2007 when the state first started considering it.

Whitaker attended a meeting to plan the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and planners there wanted to start a new legacy with the celebration.

«There are two very distinct constituencies that are interested in the national park,» Whitaker said. «One group is often referred to as the tree-huggers. They’re the ones who are interested in the environment and want to protect it. Then on the other side, there are developers in the gateway communities, and they’re interested in the economic impact.

«I raised my hand and said there are a lot of developers who are as passionate about the park and its sustainability, its beauty, as they are about the developmental side of it. They really love this place, and I think there’s a nexus point.»

What resulted was a statewide initiative to get key players in Tennessee’s tourism — hotels, restaurants, and attractions — involved in sustainability.

The University of Tennessee and National Geographic got onboard, and a kickoff celebration for the initiative was held in April 2008.

Aside from communities surrounding the Smokies working to improve their energy efficiency, Ruby Falls in Chattanooga became the first tourist attraction to become Green Globe Certified, a designation usually held by businesses.

Ruby Falls president Hugh Morrow had been paying two full-time workers to change light bulbs in the cavern surrounding the falls. After all the incandescent light bulbs were replaced with longer-lasting fluorescents, one of those workers was moved to other duties. Solar panels were later installed on top of the building, and water from the falls was collected for irrigation.

«At the end of the day, I can market that to a group of travelers who want to go to places that have the same values they do, who are looking for beautiful places and looking to support places that are sustainable,» Whitaker said.

Whitaker has since been able to speak on the subject of sustainable tourism in other states, some of which, like California, have been interested in sustainability far longer, but never applied it to tourism.

«Chattanooga is already a leader in this kind of sustainability,» Whitaker said. «They used to be the rust belt town, but they’ve completely changed their image. They cleaned up downtown. They run electric buses, and now they’ve got their hotels involved.»

Volkswagen cited Chattanooga’s environmental values in choosing to put a plant there. But new buildings and attractions can add to sustainability, too.

In Memphis, the Riverfront Development Corp.’s (RDC) Beale Street Landing, where showboats like the American Queen will dock, seemingly disappears beneath the blanket of a grassy roof sweeping gently over the top of the building and flowing into Tom Lee Park.

Originally, the design for the building, which was selected in an international competition, did not include the roof, but planners noted how the building disrupted the quiet flow of the park and asked for a redesign.

The grassy roof with its own irrigation system became the solution.

«The green roof became such an integral part of the project, I think everybody we presented it to fell in love with it from the very beginning,» said Benny Lendermon, president of the RDC. «I actually think it helped sell the project.»

In the case of Beale Street Landing and Providence House, there were large investments to be made. Shaw said his was «in the hundreds of thousands» to move the house, and Lendermon said the green roof «added cost» to the Beale Street structure.

Some of that will be recouped in lowered cooling costs, but regardless, said Whitaker, there’s a better reason to do it.

«Developers know it’s just the right thing to do,» she said.

Source / Fuente:

Author / Autor: Jonathan Devin

 Date / Fecha: 07/01/13

Visit our Facebook / Visite nuestro Facebook:

Visit our YouTube channel / Visite nuestro canal de YouTube:

Deja una respuesta

Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Salir /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Salir /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Salir /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s