A chance to grow… Commission agrees on contribution for expansion of Hampton watershed trails

Published 10:42 pm Monday, July 26, 2021

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When visitors come to Carter County, one thing that is immediately noticed is the many scenic routes and various views of beautiful mountaintops that can be seen from all over the area.

And things are only looking up in terms of scenery in the area, as in the Carter County Commission meeting last Monday, A vote to contribute $75,000 toward the expansion of the watershed trails in Hampton was passed. With this vote, the trails will be able to be expanded into a much larger area.

Wesley Bradley, a trail liaison with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) in the Tri-Cities, spoke on this project, saying, “We really have a chance to do something that has not been seen in this region yet.”

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“The first part of this expansion would be stretching the existing Watershed Trail almost to the top of Cedar Mountain, which would take us into the Cherokee National Forest .”

However, this would not be all that the expansion would cover, as the county’s contribution and at least $37,500 from the City of Elizabethton could connect the trail to the existing Tweetsie Trail, which stretches all the way into Johnson City.

“This part of the expansion would connect the Tweetsie Trail to two bike park trail systems on opposite ends, the Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park in Johnson City as well as the previously mentioned Hampton Watershed Trails.”

It is an expansion that residents of both Carter County and the City of Elizabethton should celebrate, as there is potential to grow the area economically and in its tourism.

Bradley expanded on this, saying, “You’re connecting people from Johnson City all the way to Hampton through this trail system, a way to grow the area by having more people pass through in a given time.”

“The project is based on a similar type of trail system in Bentonville, Arkansas. I have visited the area in the past, and it is a beautiful trail system as well as a place that flourishes because of it.”

Expansion of the Watershed Trails has not started yet, but Contour Trail Design Company has already laid out and flagged the new sections of the trail in the master plan.

SORBA will be signing a contract with the design company soon, which will start construction of the new phase 1 which includes 2.7 miles of trail along with an elevation gain of over 625 feet this fall.

Construction on the new areas of the trail will last around three to four months and Bradley says there is a plan to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony when everything is finished in the Spring.