Franklin voted ‘Top Small Town’ by Blue Ridge Outdoors
Franklin beat out 47 other small towns this year for the title of “2015 Top Small Town” in Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine.
The online contest garnered more than 100,000 votes from outdoor enthusiasts claiming their small town was the best outdoor adventure hub, but Franklin took the crown.
The community celebrated together last Friday on the town square as the announcement was made. Cory McCall and Rob Gasbarro, co-owners of Outdoor 76 in Franklin, were the driving force behind promoting the contest locally because they know Franklin is a Mecca for bike riding, hiking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and more.
Franklin Mayor Bob Scott addressed the excited crowd, stating how fortunate Franklin is to have all of its natural resources as well as camaraderie and love of community. Even the town of Franklin’s logo — which features a hiker, the Appalachian Trail’s white blaze on a tree, a waterfall, foliage, mountains and even a ruby dotting the ‘I’ in Franklin — is a testament to the town’s love of the outdoors.
“This is the result of many people working toward the same goal of promoting Franklin and the preservation of our outdoor resources,” Scott said.
Part of winning the award means several of Franklin’s big events will get top billing in upcoming issues of Blue Ridge Outdoors, including Winter Wonderland, Franklin Trail Days and the Naturalist Trail Race.
County Commissioner Gary Shields thanked everyone who has volunteered time in any way to help make Macon County a great place to live, work and play.
“We all know being No. 1 in anything … takes a lot of effort, and what I’ve seen as a county commissioner is a tremendous amount of people who work every day volunteering their time,” he said. “It takes everyone to keep the ball rolling.”
Tommy Jenkins, Macon County Economic Development director, said downtown Franklin was facing major challenges just a few years ago at the same time many other small town main streets were suffering from the recession. Many of the downtown Franklin businesses stuck it out through the hard times and now Main Street has welcomed in a new generation of small business owners in the last several years.
“We’re building a foundation for the future of Franklin and for Macon County,” Jenkins said. “You can’t have a growing economy unless you have a vibrant downtown with local businesses. Small business is what makes our economy grow.”
Outdoor 76 — owned by Gasbarro and McCall — is an example of that new generation of business owners who are working with other merchants to ensure Franklin thrives. As highlighted in the Blue Ridge Outdoors article about Franklin, they took a chance five years ago when they opened their outdoor gear shop in downtown Franklin.
Active community volunteer Matt Bateman, who was hosting the community announcement event last Friday, said the impact of the award could be whatever the community makes it. He said a community meeting would be scheduled for January or February to gather community input on how Franklin can capitalize on the new designation. Bryson City was the recipient of the Top Small Town award in 2014. Bateman said Bryson City saw a significant increase in room occupancy tax revenue, which is collected from visitors staying overnight at hotels, motels and campgrounds.
“I can’t help but to think that this award had a direct impact on that,” he said.
The other Top Town winners this year were Roanoke, Virginia, for Mid-Sized Town and Knoxville, Tennessee, for Top Big City.
A complete recording of the special announcement in Franklin can be seen at www.maconmedia.com.