Rutherford County Tourism

Connecting Mountains to Main Streets

Connecting mountains to Main Streets, the Rutherford Bound Tourism Master Plan serves as the ultimate infrastructure investment guide for growing the tourism economy and improving quality of life in Rutherford County, NC.  

Rutherford Bound collectively leverages the county’s assets to provide a strategic public investment guide to ultimately increase visitation, help spawn new business, attract industry, and entice a younger workforce to relocate.

View the Plan Here:

A Region United

Rutherford County is comprised of two distinct and compelling tourism regions. West Rutherford County, which is host to hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, is anchored by mature destinations including Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park. To the county’s east, the historic Main Streets of Spindale, Rutherfordton, and Forest City look to reimagine their once thriving textile economy, and they’re off to a great start by linking themselves along the new 14-mile Thermal Belt Rail Trail.

Rutherford Bound’s two-year intensive planning process marked a turning of the tide; two regions once divided by politics, geography, and economics have now found common ground as they partner to stake their claim in the new economy

Destination by Design’s in-house video and production team produced a compelling public engagement video featuring industry quality drone footage, custom graphics, and master audio.  Watch below:

The Rutherford Bound Vision

A successful planning process not only outlines clear goals and strategies, but it also casts a compelling vision that inspires citizens, local leaders, and grant-making agencies.  In classic DbD fashion, our inter-disciplinary team produced numerous photo-renderings and site plans to provide the County with the visual ammunition necessary to achieve their goal.

In classic DbD fashion, our inter-disciplinary team produced numerous photo-renderings and site plans to provide the County with the visual ammunition necessary to achieve their goal.

Spindale Streetscape Concept
Lake Lure Marina Concept
Spindale Adaptive Reuse Concept
Kiwanis Park Conceptual Master Plan
Gray’s River Access Concept
Proposed County-wide Greenway System

The Rutherford Bound Vision

While Rutherford County offers two distinct tourism products, its diversity is what makes it a unique destination. Rutherford Bound casts a bold, cooperative vision for strategic tourism infrastructure investment that will revitalize the County’s mature destinations and catalyze its developing destinations. 

In order to maintain regional brand authenticity, the Rutherford TDA recognized the need to promote two distinct regions, realizing the County’s tourism opportunities from “mountains to main streets”:

Mountain Region

Home to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village, this region represents Rutherford County’s mature tourism assets.  The Mountain Region’s greatest opportunity lies in leveraging its exceptionally strong brand awareness of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park while emphasizing new initiatives to further enhance one of North Carolina’s most beloved travel destinations.

Main Street Region

Located in central Rutherford County, this region features the three historic main street communities of Rutherfordton, Spindale, and Forest City.  The Main Street Region’s brand objective is to be established as a collection of distinct trail towns threaded together by an extensive trail system.

Strategic Enhancement Areas

While developing the overall Rutherford Bound Plan, DbD developed ‘deep-dive’ plans in four different towns: Chimney Rock Village, Lake Lure, Spindale, and Rutherfordton.  Each of these subproject plans works to realize the goals of the broader Rutherford Bound plan through site-specific planning.

Chimney Rock Village: Enhancing Accessibility & Mobility

Scope: Streetscape Master Plan & Public Space Enhancements

Nestled beneath the iconic Chimney Rock, Chimney Rock Village is a classic gateway community with direct connectivity to an NC State Park (Chimney Rock State Park) and the Broad River.  Congestion and visitor mobility have become significant issues in this popular destination.

Under the purview of the Village and with support from the RCTDA, DbD developed plans for enhancing the streetscape, riverwalk, river park, public plazas, and sidewalks.  These enhancements lay the foundation for increasing tourism capacity, enhancing visitor mobility, and growing commerce while maintaining the Village’s authenticity.

Lake Lure: Reimagining the Visitor Experience

Scope: Streetscape Master Plan & Public Space Enhancements

With picturesque views and waterfront activities, the aptly named Lake Lure has a history as a staple tourist destination in Rutherford County’s Mountain Region.  While the town attracts a great number of tourists, key infrastructure projects must be undertaken to maintain the town’s destination quality.

Working closely with Town staff and supported by the RCTDA, DbD cast a vision for a reimagined visitor experience: a redeveloped lakeside boardwalk; a redesigned marina, creating new boat slips and increasing revenue opportunity for the Town; improvements to Morse Creek Park; a multi-use path connecting the Town to Chimney Rock State Park; and a new Town Center Master Plan.  A key recommendation in the plan envisions the redevelopment of the current marina building into a regional tourism hub through a public-private partnership, with a lower level visitor information center and a second level private restaurant or bar.

Spindale: Your Funky, yet Family-Friendly Trail Town

Scope: Branding & Streetscape Master Plan

A main street community sandwiched between Rutherfordton and Forest City, Spindale has historically been a place for cultural exchange and social activity within the County.  Town leaders saw the need for streetscape enhancements and rebranding in order to take full advantage of its direct access to the TBRT.

In partnership with the Spindale Town staff and receiving support from the RCTDA, DbD spearheaded an integrated streetscape and branding project, emphasizing the Town’s assets in a new way.  A thoroughly combined branding and design process is the DbD sweet spot – Spindale created an opportunity to craft a visual brand while simultaneously developing hardscape improvements to the downtown, resulting in a more cohesive vision for the project.

Rutherfordton: Passive Recreation at Kiwanis Park

Scope: Park Master Plan

A minimally developed passive park located along the planned Purple Martin Greenway and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Kiwanis Park anchors the northern end of Rutherfordton’s downtown core.  Donated to the Town in the late 1990’s, Kiwanis Park is ripe with untapped potential to become a key asset within the Rutherford County trail network.

In consultation with the Town of Rutherfordton and receiving support from the RCTDA, DbD created the Kiwanis Park Master Plan, casting a vision for a strong destination at the confluence of the Purple Martin Greenway, Overmountain Victory Trail, and Rutherfordton Downtown Core, that eventually connects to the TBRT.  The plan outlines a number of facilities including an open green, experiential playground, dog park, creek play area, walking trails, and entrance plaza.

Trail Town Capitals of Western NC

In order to elevate the County’s overall tourism portfolio, the Rutherford Bound plan aimed to link Mountain and Main Street regions through an extensive greenway network anchored by the Thermal Belt Rail Trail (TBRT).  The extensive greenway network, once seen to fruition, would connect the Main Street Region to other County assets via the TBRT, which connects the Town of Ruth to the Town of Forest City over 13.3 miles. With the development of a recommended network of 30+ miles of trails and great Main Streets, the Main Street Region towns can ultimately take their place as the “Trail Town Capitals” of Western NC.