This article originally ran in the Cleveland Daily Banner on June 5, 2019
The upcoming biblical museum Trek Thru Truth has a wide array of supporters in the community, including the Cleveland Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, which hopes to see swathes of interested tourists flocking to Cleveland to see the country’s newest attraction upon completion.
Trek Thru Truth CEO and founder Doug Caywood was eager to share his ideas with the Chamber, and once implemented, the museum should serve as a significant destination for the country as well as economic boost for Cleveland.
“The places where similar museums exist — like the Ark and the Bible museum — have seen significant economic boom from people visiting there,” stated Cleveland Bradley County Chamber vice president of tourism development Melissa Woody.
The Chamber and Caywood have had several conversations about the site of the future museum, with several options being weighed depending on traffic patterns, and the Chamber’s offered advice on potential locations.
Caywood came to the Chamber shortly after putting together his vision for the museum, and any progress made on the project is communicated to Woody and her coworkers.
The Chamber was also involved with the Trek Thru Truth gala last year, and plans to help spread awareness about the second annual gala this year. It will serve as a storytelling fundraiser to help fund further aspects of the museum.
Trek Thru Truth is set to be a massively interactive museum, featuring exhibits detailing countless stories from the Bible. Sensory stimulators will be featured in each exhibit, such as smells, sounds, items you can touch, beautiful colors and even sometimes food to taste.
“Once this museum opens, we plan to promote it with every ounce of enthusiasm we’ve got,” Woody added. “We’ve also been brainstorming with Doug about possible sponsors and national connections.”
Woody said the experiences with Bible-related attractions in other communities foreshadows just how popular Trek Thru Truth will be once constructed. Living in such a dark time, she believes people are searching for something full of hope, and the biblical stories in the museum are filled with hope and with promises of a better future, which she said will draw people from all over the country.
Depending on how far Caywood goes with the museum’s construction, it could be comparable to the other museums around the country that draw countless visitors every day.
Woody described Cleveland as being perfectly situated in location for this scale of attraction, since it’s within a day’s drive of 75 percent of the nation’s population. Also being centered in such a faith-focused portion of the nation, Cleveland — considered by many to be the “buckle of the Bible Belt” — would be an excellent spot for Trek Thru Truth.
“I think we’re the type of community that would not only support its expansion, but also welcome something like Trek Thru Truth,” Woody said.
Once built, Woody is hoping Trek Thru Truth will include room for not only outdoor activities, but also feature meetings spaces that could be rented for conferences and group meetings.
“With over 745,000 visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium annually and over 4 million visitors experiencing the Creative Discovery Museum over the last 20 years (averaging 200,000 per year), Chattanooga has fostered tremendous growth with these two attractions,” Caywood said.
“Trek Thru Truth can have a comparable impact on Cleveland/Bradley County as the museum is projected to have over 150,000 visitors each year. With a combination of local and nonlocal guests, this venue will bring over $10 million to Cleveland/Bradley County in direct and indirect annual economic impact.”
According to the Tennessee Aquarium’s Economic Impact Study in 2016, “The average family visiting the aquarium stays in Chattanooga at least one night and spends $717 — including more than $460 on food and lodging alone — per trip.”
Caywood said Trek Thru Truth is excited to create a similar catalyst in Cleveland for tourism as well as for hotels, restaurants and retail.
The downtown area of Cleveland is expected to go through a significant rejuvenation in the coming years, and the new attractions featured in this area will coincide with Trek Thru Truth’s draw and add to Cleveland’s attractiveness as a destination.
“A rising tide lifts all ships, and the more quality reasons to visit this area, the longer people will stay. The more stays equal more economic impact,” Woody said.
Trek Thru Truth is tentatively hoping to break ground in 2020 for the Phase I portion. For more information, check out the organization’s Facebook page or go to http://trekthrutruth.com.