Governor Lee visits Carter County to see the rugged terrain and tunnel where the Tweetsie Trail will be expanded

Published 4:23 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

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Star Correspondent
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited Carter County on Friday afternoon to see the rugged terrain and tunnel where the Tweetsie Trail will be expanded.

Lee announced earlier this year that $6.3 million had been budgeted for the project, which has been described as the largest amount ever given to a local tourism-related project.

Lee and his entourage visited the Hampton area about 1 p.m. Friday. Several all-terrain vehicles from the Carter County Rescue Squad were used to transport Lee, Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby, Tennessee State Senator Jon Lundberg and others from a parking area along Rittertown Road to the former East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad tunnel.

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Local residents Ken Gouge, who previously served as a chairman of the Carter County parks and recreation board, and Wes Bradley, a trail liaison from the Southern Off-Road Biking Association, showed Lee the tunnel and the site of the old bridge trestle.

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 trailhead in Johnson City to Elizabethton, the trail is located on the former right-of-way of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad.

In 2015, another nearly three-mile section opened through Elizabethton and currently ends near the Snap-on facility.

The Carter County government then acquired land along the stretch of the former railroad through Valley Forge and Hampton.

Gouge and Bradley explained the trail extension will pass through the tunnel and a new bridge, one that will resemble the historic fallen bridge, will be constructed over the Doe.

After walking through the tunnel and visiting the bridge site, Lee and his entourage went to the Green Bridge Landing, a small park in Hampton along the Doe River and U.S. Highway 19E. Lee was shown sketches of the project.

Lee has also provided funding for the nearby expansion of the Hampton Watershed Trails, a joint project between the county and the city of Elizabethton.

Work has begun on Phase 2 of the Hampton Watershed 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.

Lee made no comments to the media during his brief visit to Carter County.