Tweetsie Historic Trail Association: Tweetsie Trail News: Johnny Molloy on the Tweetsie Trail

Thursday, November 27
Johnny Molloy on the Tweetsie Trail

Group Devoted to Trails

By Johnny Molloy
Johnson City
November 27, 2008

I sat across from Dan Reese, blue eyes staring intently through his glasses. We had met for lunch at Poor Richards at his request, to discuss the Tweetsie Trail, the proposed rail trail connecting Johnson City to Elizabethton.   An article I’d written in the Johnson City Press lauding the outdoor opportunities of East Tennessee had struck a chord with him. 

Dan has the same passion for the outdoors as I do, but he has focused his volunteer time and precious energy on making the Tweetsie Trail a reality. Dan works full time at Evergreen of Johnson City, but somehow manages to continue to make this path come to be. 

Dan invited me along for one recent event designed to move trails and greenways forward in our region, the SAGA (Southern Appalachian Greenways Alliance) Conference, held in Abingdon.  SAGA is an organization of groups in our region who are working to create and link multiple use trails throughout our region, paths such as the Kingsport Greenbelt, Virginia Creeper Trail, the Tweetsie Trail and other trails-to-be.

These multiple use paths are/will be located in urban and rural areas, and make for easy access to be used by citizens of all stripes, from kids on bikes to adults looking to get some casual exercise. Paved trails provide easier recreation opportunities for those reluctant or unwilling to head to remote trailheads and trek rugged wilderness paths. 

Dan not only wants to develop trails, he wants to get people outside. A Boy Scout, Dan grew up in Unicoi County, hiking and camping throughout our mountains. He knows what beauty we have and wants to share it with others. He knows children are watching too much TV and are on the computer so much that they need to connect with the outdoors, because connection leads to natural preservation.

The Tweetsie Trail is just the venue to make that natural connection. Dan’s dad worked for the Clinchfield Railroad for 40 years and instilled a love of the railroads, a sense of history and appreciation for nature within Dan. That’s why his passion for the Tweetsie Trail comes so easily. 

The Tweetsie Trail follows a railroad line started in the 1860s. The East Tennessee & Western North Carolina line eventually connected Johnson City to Boone, N.C., but much of it was abandoned by the 1940s. The last active stretch of the rail line traveled between Elizabethton and Johnson City. No train has run on it since 2003. The Tweetsie Trail would follow this railroad right-of-way between the two towns. 

Not only will greenways such as the Tweetsie Trail literally bridge communities, but the sum of these trails — a network of paths if you will — are greater than they are individually. They raise property values adjacent to them and are a recruitment tool for businesses and citizens wanting to settle in our region. They also provide immediate “local adventures” with minimal gas and time expenditure to enjoy them. 

But the Tweetsie Trail doesn’t happen by itself. It starts with you getting involved. I am very thankful this Thanksgiving Day for our region’s beauty. The Tweetsie Trail can be another venue to enjoy it. When people like Dan (and maybe you) display a passion for their cause, it’s easy to win people over. To learn more visit