“Natural and Cultural Resources in northeast Oklahoma exemplify our strong diverse cultures and it is our responsibility to collaborate to protect and enhance our resources as a mechanism to attract visitors and maintain a high quality of life for residents.”
Our Region’s natural and cultural resources are beyond compare. Every area of our Region identifies numerous attractions and activities, which combined with our American Indian heritage, serve as a basis for a strong, niche tourism industry. The Region recognizes the important role the Arts play as an economic driver, attractor of talent, and important ingredient in “quality of life”. Our Region is also sandwiched between the Tulsa, Fayetteville-Rogers, and Fort Smith metro areas, providing not only local tourist bases but air transportation hubs and other amenities. The general small town atmosphere, regional outdoor activities, and higher education opportunities, blended with the fairly low cost of living and competitive real estate prices provide a workforce friendly environment. Natural and cultural resources discussions focused on how to leverage, while protecting, our regional assets for regional growth.
Three central themes emerged:
1) maximizing our strong tourism industry base and branding our Region for tourists,
2) promoting artists as a cultural resource, and
3) protecting our resources through comprehensive sustainability planning.
Tourism, as an export industry, is a key component to growing our regional economy, particularly in our smaller communities. It is largely driven by our Region’s natural assets and strong livability. The Cherokee Hills Byway is a prime example of how a collaborative can engage regional stakeholders around a common interest; municipalities, tourist attractions, environmental groups, state agencies, tribal governments, and citizens are working together to create not only a memorable traveling experience but also a viable economic engine for the Region.
Community deliberations regarding the aforementioned themes brought forth two results:
1. A Healthy Diversified Tourism Base – collaborative planning and promotion, highlighting all tourism opportunities our Region has to offer.
2. Sustainable, Protected Natural Resources – regional growth must consider conservation and smart use of resources for this and future generations.