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Gough: Trail damage led to Tweetsie horse ban

Opening ceremonies for the Tweetsie Trail - which stretches from Elizabethton to Johnson City - will be held August 30 in Johnson City.

Opening ceremonies for the Tweetsie Trail – which stretches from Elizabethton to Johnson City – will be held August 30 in Johnson City.

Horses and dogs took center stage at Monday’s Carter County Health and Welfare Committee meeting. Members heard an update on the Tweetsie Trail – including the reason behind a recent decision to bar horses from the trail – and complaints from the owners of a campground about noise coming from the animal shelter.
Ken Gough, with the Tweetsie Trail Task Force, updated the committee on progress being made on the trail and also discussed the decision made by the Task Force to prohibit horses.
Gough told the committee the surface of the trail is made of “crusher run” gravel, which he said hardens into a strong surface after it is given a few days to set. A few days after the crusher run gravel was installed on the trail, Gough said damage to the trail was discovered in the form of “large divots.” He attributed the damage to horses that had been taken onto the trail before the gravel had been given proper time to harden and set.
He said, up until the time the damage to the trail was detected, he was lobbying the Task Force to permit horses, and no decision had been made one way or another.
He said the damage to the trail settled the question.
“Whoever did that owes an apology to the Task Force and to the cities of Johnson City and Elizabethton,” Gough said. “Horses did not need to be on that trail.”
Gough told committee members the trail construction is on schedule and
the first section of the trail has seven bridges, with four already completed. The remaining three are on the Johnson City end. “They will be finished very soon, within weeks,” he added.
The first section of the trail will open on Labor Day with official opening ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 30, at 8:30 a.m. at the Johnson City Memorial Park Community Center. The event will feature walkers, runners and bicyclists.
Gough said he had personally ridden his bicycle along the trail and he was pleased with what he had seen.
“This trail is going to far exceed anything I ever thought we could accomplish,” he said. “We still need donations. We still need your help. We still have two sections to complete and we can’t do it without your support.”
After Gough’s report, Phillip Wright and Wes Wright, owners of Serenity’s Edge Campground, addressed the committee.
Phillip Wright went before the full County Commission during its June meeting regarding complaints that noise from the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter was affecting his business. He was referred to the Health and Welfare Committee.
Committee chair JoAnn Blankenship told the committee that after the Commission meeting, she went to the area of the campground and animal shelter. “I went over there and I didn’t hear any dogs barking,” she said.
Committee members Willie Campbell and Ken Arney said they had also visited the area. Campbell said he did not hear any barking but Arney said “it was ‘yap, yap, yap’ while I was there.”
Phillip Wright said the barking is a constant nuisance to his business.
“Who puts an animal shelter next to a campground?” he asked the committee. “We are basically looking at if the county and city put a small business out of business, then there is a problem.”
Wes Wright played a recording for the committee on which barking dogs could be heard. He said the recording was taken in the campground and was representative of the noise problem coming from the shelter.
When asked by the committee what solution he wants, Phillip Wright said they were asking for a sound barrier to be installed.
Phillip Wright compared the decision to place the animal shelter next to the campground to “opening a methadone clinic next to a child daycare center.”
Arney said he felt the problem was created by the county and therefore it was the county’s obligation to correct it.
Blankenship said she felt the issue should be handled by the board of the Animal Shelter. Phillip Wright agreed, saying he had attempted to work with the group to reach a solution, but after they refused to resolve the problem, he brought his complaint before the full Commission.
“To me, the Board (of the Animal Shelter) should be coming to us, to the Commission to ask us for what they need to do to correct this,” Blankenship added. “I think the Animal Shelter Board would have the expertise to deal with this.”
Blankenship then made a motion to refer the matter to the Animal Shelter Board and require them to report back to the full Commission at the August meeting with a solution to the problem. The motion was seconded by Campbell and passed without a dissenting vote.