- Associated Press - Saturday, April 12, 2014

WHITESIDE, Tenn. (AP) - Officials in southern Tennessee are seeking an adventure tourism designation for 500 acres of land near Chattanooga.

The owners of the land in Marion County said they want to develop it as a tourist attraction.

The Perlaky brothers, Stephen and Jeff, also own Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground on adjacent land in Hamilton County. Jeff Perlaky says about 100,000 people visit there annually.

If the brothers’ land in Marion County is designated as an adventure tourism district, it would be eligible for tax credits.

The brothers told The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/QdUw3P) they would like to offer a range of activities that might include off-roading, hiking and horseback riding.

The Marion County Commission sent a resolution to state officials last month requesting approval.

“The ‘adventure tourism’ designation really opens a lot of opportunities. It’s literally anything outdoors, whether it’s kayaking, bird watching, hiking. It’s just meant to encourage people to go outside and be active and enjoy nature,” Jeff Perlaky said.

“In Marion County there are so many things to do, from fishing on Nickajack to rappelling off the mountain or just going to the top of the mountain and taking in the sights,” he said.

Another possibility, considering the slopes on the mountain, is zip-lining.

“That’s something we have been looking into, but at this point no determination has been made on that,” he said. “The possibilities seem endless but we would work to avoid anything that would negatively impact the cave or other land.”

Perlaky said he and his brother purchased the land in Marion County to secure the property above the cave and protect its watershed from being contaminated.

A designation would allow the brothers to receive credits of $4,500 for each qualifying job created after they make a $500,000 capital investment in a “tourism-related” activity.

“It’s an opportunity for entities that are dealing with tourism in our county to be able to get some tax relief in order to maintain their businesses,” County Mayor John Graham said.

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com