Carter and Regional Leaders Express Support for Tweetsie Trail Expansion | News

A popular trail could be a catalyst for increased tourism and economic investment in the area.

And that potential is what backers see when they look at the Tweetsie Trail.

The Johnson City-Elizabeton Bike, Walking, and Running Trail uses the former East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad right-of-way, transporting users along an attractive path that winds through the eastern edge of Johnson City , crosses a highway over an elevated bridge and passes through the scenic countryside of Milligan, Happy Valley and Elizabethton.

But as the name of the old railroad suggests, there was a lot more scenery and adventure on the old railroad than the current 9.7 miles of the Tweetsie Trail.

A number of government leaders, recreation promoters and cycling enthusiasts are working to extend the trail through additional and spectacular scenery. Their dream is to continue the Tweetsie Trail along the old ET&WNC right of way from Elizabethton to Hampton.

This would take trail users through dramatic portions where the River Doe cuts through rugged mountains, with an old turn-of-the-century road bridge on one side of the trail and the modern bridge carrying US Highways 19E and 321 to Hampton and towards Roan Mountain. and North Carolina.

But extending the Tweetsie Trail to Hampton isn’t the end goal.

There are also plans to extend the trail to the new Hampton Watershed Mountain Bike Park.

If plans are complete, the park would have 11 miles of trails on Cedar Mountain and 1,200 feet of elevation equaling that of the famed Sugar Mountain Ski Center.. To see the video of the mountain bike park and the connection to Tweetsie Trail, type bit.ly/3fva9Ca in your web browser.

And beyond that, there would be a set course for experienced road cyclists that would provide a route up Roan Mountain.

Doctors have praised the health benefits of the Tweetsie Trail, but now government leaders, economic development professionals and tourism officials are also discussing the economic benefits of widening the Tweetsie Trail.

One such developer is Ken Gough, chairman of the Carter County Parks and Recreation Board.

“The trail is now 9.7 miles long and connects Johnson City to Elizabethton. That’s long enough to make it a local interest,” Gough said. “The extension to Hampton would be 14 miles, or 28 miles round trip; which would attract tourists from all over the region.

He said the expansion would become even more attractive by linking new mountain bike parks at each end of the trail: Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park in Johnson City and Hampton Park. Gough said Johnson City could also be promoted as the region’s mountain biking hub that features nearly two dozen bike trails that are all less than an hour and a half away by car.

For racing enthusiasts, it would also provide the opportunity to ride part of the Roan Groan, one of the toughest cycle racing courses in the country.

But the next step is the extension of the Tweetsie Trail from Elizabethton to Hampton, made possible by the recent donation to the county of 28 acres between Valley Forge and Hampton.

The property, the former ET&WNC right-of-way through the area, extends from Mill Pond in Valley Forge to Railroad Street in the Rittertown Road area. Despite the rugged terrain it traverses, the trail is extremely flat and crosses the mountain by means of a railway tunnel built in the 19th century. The tunnel also serves as a passage for the water mains which provide 60% of Elizabethton’s water supply.

The possible extension of the trail has led several leaders in the region to express their support.

Alicia Phelps, executive director of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, wrote a letter to Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby and the county’s Parks and Recreation Board. She wrote that her organization believes that expanding and providing an additional 4.5 miles of access along the Tweetsie Trail in Carter County “would give residents and visitors access to what makes northeast Tennessee such a popular destination – the raw, natural beauty of the mountains and forests that encompass the area, including Carter County’s River Doe.

“To add to the surge in popularity, Blue Ridge Outdoors recently mentioned the Elizabethton area as a complex part of Tennessee’s biking boom in its October 2021 issue.”

Woodby enlisted the help of State Sen. Rusty Crowe, whose Senate district includes all of Tweetsie Trail, to help the county secure state support for the project.

Crowe said he and the county’s two House Representatives, John Holsclaw Jr. and Scotty Campbell, “are very excited about the new Tweetsie Trail plans that we’ve all been working on recently.

He said Woodby and Gouge asked him to set up a meeting with the appropriate officials in Nashville, so he arranged meetings with representatives from the governor’s finance department, “because we need the state to associates financially with us and also with the department of tourism.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the rich history, recreational and economic development opportunities of our Carter County…The biking and hiking trails will compare to some of the best in our entire country.

Crowe said Governor Bill Lee’s representatives at the meeting were very excited about the plan.

“I can tell you that when the state sees our local communities coming together on a project like this, it’s much more likely that they’ll invest the state’s money and partner with us to make it one. reality,” he said.

“I walked part of the trail with Mayor Woodby, Ken Gouge and news reporter John Thompson today (January 14) and am more excited than ever about the potential from an economic development, recreation and tourism… Rep Holsclaw and Rep Scotty Campbell and I will be working this session to secure state funding to help put this project on the map.

Woodby said Carter County has identified outdoor recreation and tourism as important economic drivers for the community’s future growth. She added that the expansion of the Tweetsie Trail will bring visitors to experience the magnificent national resources and also increase outdoor recreation opportunities for residents of Carter County.

“When combined with the City of Elizabethton’s Hampton Watershed Trail project and the Tannery Knobs Bike Park in Johnson City, the tourism generated by the cycling facilities will have a regional impact as visitors spend their time and money here in local restaurants, businesses and hotels,” she said.

Woodby said $5.25 million is being sought from the state to support the expansion and “help make Carter County, along with the rest of northeast Tennessee, a premier cycling destination.” outside”.

Gouge said one of the biggest expenses associated with the trail extension will be the construction of a new bridge over the River Doe.

The old railway bridge has disappeared; the parallel road bridge is still standing, but it has large holes in the roadway that make it dangerous. Gouge said there are three possible types of bridges that can be built, but funds will need to be raised to build the bridge.

In his letter to Woodby and the county parks and recreation board, Phelps said the trail expansion project includes the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge and that the project would have a significant impact on the continued success of the trail. outdoor tourism and improve the quality of life for people in northeast Tennessee.

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