Hampton whitewater access point receives new changing house

Published 3:48 pm Monday, August 6, 2018

With various whitewater access points scattered throughout Carter County, one will now leave the others “green” with envy.

The Green Bridge Landing, a whitewater access point for Lower Doe River beside Hampton High School, recently had volunteers on site to complete the creation of a new changing room that kayakers and other attendees can use before hitting the water.

An idea first formed by the Elizabethton IDEAS Group, work at the Green Bridge Landing has been underway for over a year as a way to bring in additional tourists to the region and showcase the natural beauty of the local rivers, along with the Hampton community.

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Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts (APEs), a nonprofit organization that’s currently helping spearhead action at the location, was able to put the final touches on the addition just a few days ago.

“We knew it would be important to have a changing area at the park for the paddlers that come through,” said Wesley Bradley, APEs member and Tri-Cities world kayak ambassador. “Especially near the high school, we wanted to have an area for people to have privacy.”

While developing the idea of the landing/park, volunteers decided by an overwhelming majority to name the area after the “Green Bridge” due to its significance in the region. Years ago, a green covered bridge was located in the area for trains to come through across the Doe.

Bradley added the project, which totaled around $1,800 in donations for completion, received a helping hand from East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Fred Alsop, who provided background information on the Green Bridge’s significance in the county.

“It’s exciting to see the way it came together,” Bradley said. “Through Dr. Alsop’s research, we were able to come up with the same color that the bridge was before it was torn down to give it some historical significance. We believe this is the perfect centerpiece for the park.” Bradley credited the photo collection of Johnny Graybeal for the design on the house. One idea, he added, is to have an artist to draw a mural on the changing door — preferably of a Tweetsie rail car — to keep up with the historical significance.

A team of five “APEs” helped make the construction possible. Bradley, his wife Jennifer, Steven Adams, Jerry Smith and Jerry Griffin logged a combined 189 volunteer hours on the project.

Griffin, a Greene County native, logged around $238 worth of personal donations and 75 hours worth of service, including nearly 20 hours of travel time.

“It was great to see all the members come together for the project,” Bradley said. “It was also great to see how important this area means to people. Jerry is from Greene County but understands the importance of the project and made his way over to help complete the project.”

Having the park in place will only be a benefit moving forward, according to volunteers. A 2017 work day sponsored by the Elizabethton IDEAS Group, along with Carter County Commission and City Council representation, saw others from the Hampton community, like James Smith, who indicated the project is necessary for the community.

“I just came out to work today because I felt like it was my civic duty,” James told the Elizabethton Star during the work day. “You look at place like Roan Mountain when it comes to a park, and we really don’t have anything here like this. I think this would be as asset to the community. All the kayakers, it would be a great picnic area for our citizens and it’s just right off the road. I just like to help people.

“I heard there was going to be something like a park here and I heard they were looking for volunteers,” he continued. “There’s another thing too. Right over there where they are working, there used to be a green bridge across that river there. That place where the park could be has been called “the Green Bridge” for at least 100 years. And I think by rights this area should be called the Green Bridge Park.”

And Bradley is hoping within the next couple of months, final additions to the park will be placed. The APEs member credited Ken Gough, Carter County Parks & Rec Board, Tennessee Valley Authority, City of Elizabethton, Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club, Carter County Sheriff’s Office, Chris Little, County Planning Director Chris Schuettler and a handful of others for all the necessary pieces that are coming together for the project. Lowe’s of Elizabethton and Builders FirstSource in Mount Carmel also assisted with the creation of the changing room.

A roughly one-sixth of a mile mulch trail has been placed at the park. A pair of signs are also on the way. Cloudland High School created an entrance sign that will be placed soon and a historic marker from Alsop will also be added near the changing house. Bradley added the work remains for the parking area and that four benches, a playset and trash can is expected to be placed at the park within the next two months.

“It’s amazing to see how this project came together,” Bradley said. “What started as an idea has grown so much that the community has joined together to make this possible. The park is already becoming something special. One night during construction, we had four separate families come by to either fish or enter the river.”