Carter County Commission to revisit $6.3 million Tweetsie Trail expansion in October

Published 9:58 am Monday, September 25, 2023

After deferring the $6.3 million expansion of the Tweetsie Trail in September, Carter County commissioners will reconsider the project in October.
In early September, the Financial Management Committee deferred action on the state’s grant to expand the Tweetsie Trail and the Hampton Watershed Trails in Carter County.
The decision to defer the project came up at the full county commission meeting on Sept. 18. Several citizens, including longtime county parks volunteer Wesley Bradley, were present to support the projects.
Bradley told commissioners that the trails have had a positive economic impact on the county. In 2022, the county received about $1.8 million in taxes from travel tourism, including the Tweetsie Trail, he said.
Two years ago, the county provided a total of $88,000 to develop the watershed trails, Bradley said. That led to the development of more than five miles of trails.
“You were all the spark for the project,” Bradley said.
If the county turns down the state funding, Bradley said other counties are interested. He said Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy recently contacted Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby about the project.
“If we turn down this opportunity, they would love to expand the trail to Jonesborough,” Bradley said. “If we don’t take this money, somebody else is going to get it.”
Originally stretching for about seven miles from Johnson City to Elizabethton, the Tweetsie Trail is located on the former right-of-way of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. The trail now stretches about 9.6 miles to the Snap-On facility in Elizabethton.
The proposed expansion will continue the trail through Valley Forge and Hampton. The expansion includes a new pedestrian bridge across the Doe River to access one of the tunnels previously used by the railroad.
The expansion would increase the Tweetsie Trail’s length to a total of 14 miles.
Money will also be used to expand the Hampton Watershed Trails up the mountain. The city of Elizabethton, which owns the watershed property, has been working with the county to develop the park.
Angela Clapp of Jefferson City told commissioners that she, her family and friends enjoy visiting Carter County to use the Tweetsie Trail. Clapp said the expansion would “improve the current trail and attract a larger demographic of bikers and outdoor enthusiasts.”
Nothing in East Tennessee compares to the Tweetsie Trail, Clapp said.
Several commissioners, including Robert Acuff, Danny Deal, Donnie Cable and Todd Smith, said they have not received enough information to approve the project.
Acuff said he has not seen any cost information regarding maintenance or law enforcement. He said the language in the contract is also not consistent.
“There are just too many questions,” Acuff said.
Cable said no one is against the trail.
“It’s that the commission has not been given any information,” said Cable, who added that he has not seen any drawings or other information.
Deal, who made the motion at the Financial Management Committee to defer the project, said he has been a commissioner for about a year and has never seen a map of the trail.
“I had to be told where the trail was going to go,” he said. “I have never been given a cost analysis.”
Commissioner Aaron Frazier said information about the two projects has been shared, but “it hasn’t been presented to this particular body.”
Frazier said the county does have cost estimates for maintenance from Johnson City, and he is aware the sheriff has plans to increase patrols on the trail. He noted that the state’s grant covers administrative costs related to the projects.
The county’s Financial Management Committee will reconsider the projects at its Oct. 5 meeting.

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