Bartow’s African-American Heritage Trail and commissioner, Steve Taylor, captured a pair of accolades during the Northwest Georgia’s Historic High Country Travel Association’s State Legislative Outreach and Cocktail Reception. Taylor was named the Tourism Advocate of the Year and the trail received the Tourism Product Development of the Year award.
The Historic High Country Awards for Association Excellence were presented Dec. 2 at the Clarence Brown Conference Center.
“Lillie Read [director of the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority] and I were both there, and thrilled that we had won for our combined efforts and those of many, many others who contributed to the final product,” said Keep Bartow Beautiful Executive Director Sheri Henshaw. “We had sought to join the information for the Bartow African-American Heritage Trail — a project I had worked on for about four years — with the Cartersville Downtown Walking Tour of African-American Businesses, a project Lillie had spearheaded with her volunteers for almost two years.
“The award was for Tourism Product Development, which, in our case, was our brochure. We worked with Ellen Archer and her local tourism team and with Lara Jeanneret of Lara J, a local graphic design firm, to create the brochure. Bartow County Grant Writing worked with Cartersville DDA and Keep Bartow Beautiful, with assistance from each of the sites and input from Bartow History Museum on the initial grant application. Etowah Valley Historical Society was our nonprofit partner for the application process.”
Along with various locations in downtown Cartersville, such as Gassett’s Grocery and Conyers Alley, Bartow’s African-American Heritage Trail consists of various sites across the county — George Washington Carver Park and Camp Pine Acres in Acworth; Summer Hill Heritage Foundation and the Masonic Lodge in Cartersville; Euharlee Covered Bridge and Black Pioneers Cemetery in Euharlee; St. James AME Church and Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center in Cassville; Melvinia "Mattie" Shields McGruder's gravesite in Kingston; and Adairsville Depot Museum in Adairsville.
“We know there are so many ways this can benefit our historic sites, and the communities in which they reside,” Henshaw said. “But, even more, the history we have been able to uncover and record for posterity is invaluable. The public can learn so much from these sites, and the stories they have to tell. We encourage folks to pick up a brochure from one of the welcome centers — Brown Conference Center, Cartersville Depot, Adairsville Depot, Euharlee Welcome Center — and follow along on a driving tour.
“They can also contact these sites to set up a walking tour, for example, of downtown Cartersville with the Etowah Bush School. The school was an outgrowth of this project, and is housed in the old segregated ‘colored’ waiting room of the Cartersville Depot. The school, started by husband-and-wife team Sean Callahan and Alexis Carter-Callahan, both college professors, seeks to tell the stories of the rural black Southerner.”
Through her work with the African-American Heritage Trail and other endeavors, Henshaw has seen firsthand Taylor’s support for these efforts and is pleased he was recognized at the December meeting.
“I think Commissioner Taylor deserved the Tourism Advocate of the Year Award, for our 17-county Historic High Country region, because he has shown real leadership in that area since he was first elected,” she said. “He has supported the Bartow African-American Heritage Trail, and completely embraced the concept of the Etowah River Water Trail, for which the county received an award in 2016 — Coosa River Basin Initiative Greenie Awards.
“Commissioner Taylor championed returning the original name and complete history back to George Washington Carver Park, acquiring the Girl Scout Camp on Lake Allatoona, rebuilding the Rose Lawn Carriage House and taking on other sites around the lake, such as the old Presbyterian Camp. Simply put, without his support, the trail would not exist today. I think he has shown that tourism and historic preservation are important tools for economic development and jobs creation, and this award is one small way of recognizing his leadership and appreciating his vision for the community.”
“Grateful and honored” to win the Tourism Advocate of the Year accolade, Taylor shared “the real credit” goes to Archer — executive director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau — and her staff.
“They have worked really hard to keep us in the tourism spotlight and they do an amazing job,” he said. “We have a beautiful and unique county with so much to offer visitors of all ages. LakePoint Sports Complex offers a variety of sports venues and welcomes approximately 1 million visitors a year, and they're still growing and adding new events and sports venues. And we're grateful and excited to have a number of museums that welcome visitors year-round — Tellus Science Museum, Booth Western Art Museum, the historic Rose Lawn Museum, Etowah Indian Mounds, George Washington Carver Park and so much more.
“There's so much history here to share. And then when you add our beautiful Lake Allatoona and Etowah River to that list that entices those drawn to water sports, well as far as I'm concerned, you couldn't ask for a better place to visit or to call home.”