At a recent Economic Development Council (EDC) meeting Andy Demetriou of Bartlett based Blues City Kayaks spoke about bringing adventure tourism to Lakeland. In 2017 the City of Lakeland was designated as an Adventure Tourism District by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the city hopes to capitalize on that designation. Since that time though not much has been brought forth that utilizes that status, so the very idea of discussing Adventure Tourism at an EDC meeting was a welcome conversation for board members.
Mr. Demetriou told the EDC in addition to kayak rentals his business, which he started in 2019, does guided tours, hiking and biking tours, as well as beach and paddle board yoga. At the EDC meeting board members agreed that Kayaking along the city’s 2.7-mile stretch of the Loosahatchie River and adventure tourism would positively impact the city’s hotels, restaurants, and other retail businesses. Mr. Demetriou spoke on how his company recently began doing tours of the Hatchie River in Bolivar, TN and small business owners there expected the tours to bring revenue to the city in the form of visitors buying gas and eating at the restaurants. The EDC felt kayak tours on the Loosahatchie River could benefit retail establishments like Lakeland Town Square.
At the meeting, the access point for the Loosahatchie River was the one notable roadblock but since that time Mr. Demetriou has stated that some progress has been made and is fully invested in making it work. The 64-mile river is the shortest in West Tennessee, and it is completely channelized and since the Clean Water Act was put into law in the 1970’s, the waterways have really come back to life in ways that most residents might not envision. Many residents are drawn to nature, and this is one way to allow a connection plus deliver some economic benefits.