Benton — When Highway 64 reopens April 16, Polk County plans to celebrate. The public is invited to attend a celebration to mark the reopening of Highway 64 after five month’s of work to clear and stabilize the road following the massive rockslide of Nov. 10, 2009. The event will be held at the Ocoee Whitewater Center April 16, from noon until 6 p.m. Free food, drinks and music will be available and souvenir shirts will be sold.
The event is being organized by the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s time for us to gather and celebrate the vital link this road represents to families, businesses and the region,” said Jan Beck, Polk County Chamber of Commerce, president. “The road closure has had a devastating impact on the lives of Polk County families, and cost area businesses thousand of dollars in additional expenses.”
Music will be provided by Steel String Session, through a grant from the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association.
The site has ample parking, and indoor facilities in the event of rain. Visitors can also take advantage of numerous, easy hiking trails accessible from the Center.
Polk County is divided by the Cherokee National Forest, and Highway 64 is the only direct route connecting the county.
Many citizens work and go to school in Cleveland, Athens and as far away as Chattanooga.
The road closure turned a 30-minute drive into a detour of well over an hour and a half. Some shippers have added fuel surcharges to transports into eastern Polk County.
Additionally, the closure caused serious problems for health care providers. Doctors have been unable to make the more than three hour round trip to eastern Polk County, and patients have great difficulty reaching providers to the west.
Highway 64 also serves as a major east - west corridor connecting East Tennessee to North Carolina.
The Ocoee Whitewater Center is located on Highway 64 approximately 30 miles east of Cleveland.
For additional information, contact the Polk County Chamber of Commerce, 800-633-7655, or visit www.OcoeeCountry.com.