Access to new Watauga River boat ramp open

Published 12:12 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2022

BY ROBERT SORRELL
Access to the new boat ramp along the Watauga River in Elizabethton is open to the public.
The ramp is located along Lovers Lane under the Bristol Bridge and provides fisherman, emergency personnel and others access to the river. After weeks of construction, the parking area has been completed and the area has opened to the public.
Efforts to develop the new boat ramp have been ongoing for about five years.
The project began with discussions, then on-site meetings, design approval, applying for permits, getting started, getting stopped, applying for more permits, getting started again, adding more parking, design tweaks and now, in 2022, it is almost complete, according to Matthew Cameron, a spokesperson with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The TWRA has been working with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the city of Elizabethton and the Go Betsy organization, which began discussing the project around 2017 and 2018.
Cameron said the city of Elizabethton had wanted more access on the Watauga River and TDOT has a program for utilizing bridges called “Park and Float.” The TWRA was asked to help because the organization is involved in building boat access ramps.
“Fishermen most certainly have been interested in more access to the Watauga, but it is not easy to achieve and it comes with a maintenance cost that both TWRA and the city of Elizabethton are very much aware of,” Cameron said.
Cameron said the TVA is a fantastic partner which has provided needed funds for the project. The TVA granted $45,000 for the paving of the parking lot. Work has been done by the Carter County Highway Department.
“The people of Elizabethton are being well served by their elected leaders who have persistently pushed for additional access sites,” Cameron said.
The land where the boat ramp is located is owned by TDOT, which has agreed to lease the land to the city of Elizabethton for $1 a year, according to Chris Little, one of the Go Betsy organization leaders who has led the efforts.
Little said the new boat ramp opens access to the river for water enthusiasts, fishermen and whitewater rafting.
The city of Elizabethton will provide signage, lighting and maintenance of the area.
Little said a grand opening is planned for late July or August.

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