Ceremony planned for Tweetsie expansion and Hampton Watershed Trails
Published 2:18 pm Thursday, August 3, 2023
BY ROBERT SORRELL
Local and state officials plan to celebrate ongoing work to expand the Tweetsie Trail and the Hampton Watershed Trails in Carter County.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Tweetsie, which currently stretches from Johnson City to Valley Forge, and a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Hampton Watershed Trails will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, at the entrance to the watershed located at 735 1st Ave Hampton, TN 37658.
Several county and city officials, as well as Tennessee Commissioner of Finance and Administration Jim Bryson, Commissioner of Tourism Development Mark Ezell and Deputy Commissioner of Bureau Conservation Greer Tidwell are expected to attend the event.
After the ceremony, organizers will host trail hike tours for those who want to explore the trails.
The Tweetsie Trail, one of the longest rails-to-trails projects in the state of Tennessee, first opened in 2014. Originally stretching for about seven miles from the trail head in Johnson City to Elizabethton, the trail is located on the former right-of-way of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad.
Later, in 2015, another nearly three mile section opened through Elizabethton and currently ends near the Snap-On facility.
The new expansion will continue the trail from near the Snap-On facility, through the community of Valley Forge, and end near the Hampton Watershed Trails.
The expansion includes a new pedestrian bridge across the Doe River to access one of the tunnels previously used by the railroad.
Governor Bill Lee announced earlier this year that $6.3 million has been budgeted for the project, the largest amount ever given to a local tourism-related project.
“This project will put Carter County on the outdoor recreation destination map,” Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby said.
The mayor, who has sought money from the state for the projects, said the investment is a “big win for us.”
The expansion would increase the Tweetsie Trail’s length to a total of 14 miles. The goal is to eventually expand the trail into the Roan Mountain area.
Officials will also celebrate the completion of Phase 1 of the Hampton Watershed Trails project. The phase added 2.7 miles to the existing trail system, which is located on property owned by the city of Elizabethton.
The Hampton Watershed provides 3.5 million gallons of water a day for Elizabethton, as well as 238 acres of land used for hiking and biking trails. Over the past two years, the city, SORBA of the Tri-Cities and the Carter County Parks and Recreation Board have been working together to develop an overall master plan for the project.
Work is also expected to begin soon on Phase 2 of the project, which will expand the trail system to the top of the mountain, according to Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains.
Phase 3 will include a pump track and skills park, Mains said.