Tweetsie Historic Trail Association: Tweetsie Trail News: Tweetsie Trail step closer to reality

Tuesday, April 19
Tweetsie Trail step closer to reality

April 18, 2011 - Sixteen months after the city first made its proposal, East Tennessee Railway has agreed to terms for Johnson City’s $600,000 offer for a 10-mile stretch of land on which the first “rails-to-trails” project in East Tennessee could be constructed.

The long wait on contractual and procedural matters between the attorneys for Genesee & Wyoming, ETR’s parent company and the city have come to an end, and the City Commission will consider the contract Thursday at its regular meeting.

City Manager Pete Peterson announced the agreement Monday afternoon in an agenda review meeting.

“I know you’re not going to believe it, but we will have the contract on the agenda,” he said. “Charlie Stahl, Bob Stahl (assistant city managers) and Jim Epps (city attorney) have put hundreds of hours into this.”

If approved, the railroad will have 24 months to improve road crossings and remove railroad ties. Peterson said the city will begin applying for grants and hopes hiking clubs and others will become involved in the push to create a public trail called the “Tweetsie Trail.”

Both the city and rail company have concluded that the route, which runs through an active rail yard in Johnson City, then along steep hillsides and through cuts until it reaches Elizabethton, offers no practical opportunity for redevelopment.

“Rails-to-Trails,” or “railbanking,” allows an out-of-use railroad corridor to be converted for interim trail use, thereby preserving the corridor until such time as rail service is deemed feasible or necessary again. Railbanking not only allows the construction of trails for public use, but it preserves these scenic corridors.

The nearest facility currently in use, the Virginia Creeper Trail, begins in Abingdon, Va.

“The few times I’ve been on the Creeper Trail, I was just amazed at how many people were on it,” Commissioner Phil Carriger said Monday.

 

The Johnson City Press is reviewing the contract and will follow up Wednesday with a more detailed story.