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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Public Meeting on Tweetsie Trail Draws Full House

This from the Johnson City Press Chronicle of 09.28.11 on a Rail-to-Trail project in NE TN. Dealing with property owner's fears of crime and vandalism will always be part of this type of a civic venture. One positive result of this project is that it has united many user group including hikers, bicycle riders, pedestrians, nature lovers, horse back riders, and conservationists in a common voice for investment in livable infrastructure that benefits all.

"We’re talking Tweetsie Trail here. A meeting Tuesday at Johnson City’s Municipal & Safety Building intended by city officials to be “informational” marked the first of three planned public discussions that will shape the practical and recreational uses along the 10-mile section of former East Tennessee Railroad right-of-way.
Though Steve Neilson, the city’s long-range planning coordinator, did reveal some new information regarding how Johnson City plans to proceed with East Tennessee’s first “rails-to-trails” project, about 125 people packed the City Commission chambers — and most were up for a hearty Q&A session.
Elizabethton resident Rob Stout, as well as dozens of other Elizabethton residents, were not comfortable with the possibility of ATV use, increased criminal activity and security issues, lighting, fencing, noise and property rights concerns.
“Most of us live in Elizabethton,” Stout said to Neilson. “How can you patrol that? You don’t even have adequate security at Winged Deer Park as it is. Would you be happy if it was in your backyard?”
“Yes I would,” Neilson responded.
The informational meeting/discussion would never have occurred if not for the years of meetings, conversations, telephone calls, letters, emails and lengthy negotiations that have come and gone in order to secure the property’s use.
After saying he “certainly misjudged the amount of people that would be here,” Neilson established the baseline status, future procedural plans and some basic expectations for the multipurpose recreational pathway.
“The first thing we’re doing is putting out a request for proposals that will go out in about one week to architectural engineers experienced in rails-to-trails,” he said. “They’ll have four weeks to respond. We will choose one of these, and we anticipate the final design to be done in fall of next year.”
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has expressed an interest in helping fund the project, and city officials are hoping to receive corporate support, he added.
“We’ll also be looking at linking into other recreation trails, such as Sycamore Shoals and the State of Franklin trail (a stretch of pedestrian and bicycle path stretching from ETSU into downtown),” he said. “About 250 of the properties along or near the trail are in Carter County, and we will be looking into privacy and security concerns. We’ll also be looking at building in phases and considering parking sites.”
Neilson said the RFP also calls for a five-year maintenance plan and that Johnson City and Elizabethton will be coordinating security.”
In late April, the Johnson City Commission took a long-awaited step and approved a $600,000 agreement to buy approximately 70 acres of land needed for the project from Genesee & Wyoming, the parent company of East Tennessee Railway.
The property’s path includes land where the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina railroad once operated between Johnson City and Elizabethton, and the abandoned corridor runs from Alabama and Legion streets in Johnson City and ends near the State Line Drive-In in Elizabethton."

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