Tweetsie Trail expansion will benefit the entire region

Published 3:42 pm Friday, November 12, 2021

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This past March, the county was given a 28-acre piece of land that included the Tweetsie Railroad right-of-way between Valley Forge and Hampton. The section starts at the end of Mill Pond Road in Valley Forge and ends at the terminus of Railroad Street in Hampton — a prize piece of land, which the county proposes to use to expand the Tweetsie Trail, which already stretches nine miles from Johnson City to Valley Forge.
The property traverses an extremely rugged section of land where a steep ridge forces the river into a horseshoe bend and includes an old highway bridge and a former railroad tunnel through the ridge. It’s paradise for an outdoorsman, especially the biker.
It will not be an easy nor cheap undertaking as the proposed trail renovation is expected to cost over $1 million. Yet, the section is one of several that, if developed and fully linked, will give cyclists a safe route all the way from Johnson City to Roan Mountain — and someday possibly beyond.
The extension of the historic trail makes it a viable attractor and economic driver in outdoor recreation.
Joining Carter County in the endeavor will be the City of Elizabethton and its Parks and Recreation Department.
The first legs of the project will include improving the old highway between Mill Pond Road and the dilapidated bridge as funds are sought to improve the bridge decking or possibly a new pedestrian/bike only span over the river.
The county will also work to improve the section on the Hampton side of the bridge, from Railroad Street to through the tunnel. On the Valley Forge side of the tunnel there is a short downhill trek from the Tweetsie right-of-way to the old highway at the end of the bridge.
At the opposite end of the trail in Hampton is Green Bridge Landing Park, which offers access to the river, and the Hampton Watershed mountain bike trail system, and potentially the railroad grade again.
A couple of miles still remain between the current Elizabethton terminus of the Tweetsie at Hatcher Lane and the end of Mill Pond Road, of which a small portion would likely involve getting onto the shoulder of 19-E as well.
The addition will double the Tweetsie Trail and provide the public with scenic views of the Doe River and surrounding tributaries.
The project has great potential and could make Carter County a focal point of Northeast Tennessee tourism — one that could lead to new businesses such as a new motel, which is a real necessity, as well as other lodging opportunities, bike and accessory shops, and family-style restaurants.
Since the Tweetsie Trail opened seven years ago, hundreds of walkers, runners, and cyclists have used it for exercise, recreation, and relaxation. Every day, walkers and cyclists can be seen on the trail. The Tweetsie Trail literally and figuratively connects Johnson City and Elizabethton, giving the two cities a shared purpose for cooperation. Extending the trail to Hampton can only bring our communities closer together.
Extending the Tweetsie Trail is good news for all of Carter County and for the region, and we can’t wait to see the project completed. It is good economic news for the area.

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