City OKs plan to expand Hampton Watershed Trails

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, July 14, 2022

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Star Correspondent
The Elizabethton City Council approved a lease Thursday that would expand the Hampton Watershed Trails property by 52.75 acres.
Doe River Gorge has agreed to a five-year lease to the city of Elizabethton for the parcel which adjoins the watershed. There is no lease fee for the agreement, and it can be renewed for an additional five years.
Leading up to the unanimous vote during the July council meeting, area residents urged members to approve the lease agreement.
Cody Howell told council that he is involved in trail construction and often visits communities where trails are located. Howell said he and other bicyclists who use the trails spend money in those communities, including Elizabethton.
Bill Schooley described the watershed trails system as one of the county’s primary recreational projects, which also includes the Surf Betsy project, which has been planned on either the Doe or Watauga rivers in Elizabethton, and the expansion of the Tweetsie Trail to Hampton.
The lease agreement will allow partners involved in the project to further expand the system.
The city originally purchased the current watershed back in 1935 and owns about 238 acres. The Eagle Scouts began working to transform the land into a biking and hiking trail more than 15 years ago. An expansion project has been ongoing this year.
Partners in the watershed project include Elizabethton, Carter County, the Doe River Gorge, and SORBA of the Tri-Cities.
In other recreation news, council confirmed it still plans to install signs at the new boat ramp under the Highway 400 bridge. Chris Little with the Elizabethton IDEAS group reminded council that it had already committed to installing the signs at the new site.
Little said the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Tennessee Valley Authority have already spent thousands of dollars on the project. The ramp, located on the Watauga River, can currently be accessed by fishermen and others.
City Mayor Curt Alexander said the city will uphold its end of the deal and City Manager Daniel Estes said the city is committed to the project and is just working to get its “ducks in a row.”
The council also approved several resolutions, including one to approve an agreement to provide school resource officers with Elizabethton City Schools. Police Jason Shaw noted that the agreement allows the city to have an officer at every school, including the high school, middle school and elementary schools.
Asked whether he has evidence that the program is working, Shaw said he believes the program allows children in the city to see police officers and become more comfortable around them, rather than just seeing police arresting people.
Council also approved an agreement to extend its participation in the First Judicial District Drug Task Force. Shaw explained that the drug task force allows police in Elizabethton to work alongside and share resources and information with surrounding agencies, including the Carter County Sheriff’s Office.
Several resolutions regarding employment descriptions, job duties and qualifications were also approved during the meeting. Jobs at the water resources department and library were discussed.
Multiple local residents, including a representative from Keep Carter County Beautiful, spoke on the need to clean up trash and properties during public discussion. They were directed to the city’s code enforcement officer and processes for hearing complaints. Council members agreed that the city needs to work to clean up litter and trash.

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