We’ve Been Busy! Here’s What We’ve Been Doing
The Parks & Rec Board is busy! As of November, 2017, here’s a partial list of what we’ve been up to:
- Roan Mountain Community Park is redeveloping its playground by refurbishing the existing equipment, installing new structures and installing rubber mulch. Work will be completed in late 2017 or early 2018. Funds were provided through a $10,000 grant from the TN Dept. of Health, community donations, and additional money from the Board. All the labor has been donated by members of the Roan Mountain Recreation Foundation and the Roan Mountain prison crew. A thank you to Elizabethton Parks & Rec for technical assistance.
- Green Bridge Landing is nearing completion! This is the county’s first pocket park, developed in association with the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts (the RiverAPEs). The 1.4-acre lot in Hampton at the Hwy 19E bridge over the Doe River was a badly-overgrown, notorious dumping ground. When completed, the park will provide access to the river for paddlers and fishermen, and have a changing booth for the paddlers, a 1/6-mile walking trail with benches, a picnic area, and a lighted parking area which will also provide overflow parking for Hampton High School football games. An added (and unexpected) bonus is that it will provide badly-needed access to the river for the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department.
- Roan Mountain Community Park has put the finishing touches on its new stage, completing a project started in 2016 by the Roan Mountain Recreation Foundation. This versatile structure is used for concerts, meetings, yoga and exercise classes among other things. The Board was proud to provide a portion of the funding.
- The Back County Horsemen of East Tennessee is developing Happy Trails Park near the intersection of Highway 19-E and Old Railroad Grade Road on the banks of the Doe River. It is a part of Roan Mountain Community Park and will be partially funded by the Board. Primarily intended as a staging area for horsemen to access over 40 miles of trails in the surrounding mountains, it will also have picnic facilities, a landing on the river for paddlers and fishermen, and will anchor the western end of a trail to be constructed along the river (see below). The project is in early stages. The land has been cleared. Most work is expected to be carried out in 2018.
- Carter County now has a number of Adventure Tourism Districts! This was one of the Board’s first initiatives shortly after our re-organization in 2015. It finally came to fruition in the summer of 2017 when the Tennessee Department of Tourism approved Adventure Tourism Districts for Roan Mountain, Watauga Lake, Doe River Gorge, the Watauga River, the Tweetsie Trail, Elizabethton, and Stony Creek. In addition to the marketing value of the designation, there are significant tax breaks for tourism-related businesses in the districts.
- Thirty seven years after its establishment, progress is finally being made on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. The Board has partnered with the National Park Service, Elizabethton and a number of other local governments to fund the $100,000 cost of the Master Plan for Section 1 from Abingdon to Elizabethton. Expected completion is September, 2018, and the drive to raise the money to build the trail will begin soon thereafter. On the radar – the Master Plan for Section 2 from Elizabethton to Spruce Pine, NC.
- Having successfully completed 2 Board-sponsored pamphlets, the Herndon Birders are hard at work on the Guide to Birding in Carter County. This small book will direct birders to the best locations in the county, which is known as one of the best birding areas in the eastern United States. The Board is funding publication. Coming up – a revision and update to long-out-of-print The Birds of East Tennessee and, we hope, a Carter County Birding Festival.
- Congratulations to Roan Mountain for becoming an Appalachian Trail Community, only the 2nd in Tennessee and the 41st in the nation. To do so, the community had to satisfy strict criteria required by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Board helped fund the May 6 & 7 celebration held at Roan Mountain Community Park, which is expected to become an annual event. (The Board declines any responsibility for the lousy weather that weekend!)
- Chairman Ken Gough accepted an invitation to join the Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Council, advising Tourism Director Kayla Carter on the Chamber’s tourism promotion campaign. Although the Board doesn’t do tourism, we recognize that our efforts aid its development. We’re delighted to have the opportunity to coordinate our activities.
- Board member Jeff Smythe is working on improving directional signage to the Watershed Mountain Bike Trail in Hampton. If funding allows, we’ll also refurbish and upgrade the trail entrance.
- At the Board’s request, the County Commission has asked the Tennessee Department of Transportation to donate an unused 20-plus acre parcel of land to the county for building a multi-use sports facility in association with the city of Elizabethton. The park, located off of Powder Branch Road, would have 3-4 baseball fields, walking trails and other recreational activities. It would also provide access to the Taylor Family Cemetery, one of Carter County’s most historic. Charlie Mattioli is spearheading the Board’s efforts. Mayor Humphrey is working with our state legislators to negotiate the transfer. We’re also working to purchase a parcel of land on Gap Creek for more ball fields.
- Consultants Dan Reese and Bob Richards have prepared a Strategic Recreation Plan for the Board, which will be used to guide us in our activities in coming years. It seems that our plan is unique among the rural counties of Tennessee and gives us a leg up when applying for grants. Our thanks to Dan and Bob for a great job!
- The Board is planning a major Recreational Trails Program grant application for a trail along the Doe River in Roan Mountain. It will start at the main area of Roan Mountain Community Park (near the ball field) and proceed west down the river to Happy Trails Park (see above) on Old Railroad Grade Road. With a very gentle grade of less than 1%, the 2-1/4 mile-long trail will be suitable for pedestrians and casual cyclists, and, by continuing on Old Railroad Grade Road as far as Bear Cage Road, they will be able to make a round trip of about 12 miles along an extraordinarily beautiful stretch of the Doe River. It will also improve access to the river for fishermen. The trail will eventually be part of Carter County’s Tweetsie Extension cycling trail as well as the Overmountain Victory Trail. We are working with the First Tennessee Development District on the grant application, which will be submitted in Spring, 2018. The project will take at least 2 years to complete.
- The Board also has tentative plans for a TN Dept. of Health grant for a fund to establish pocket parks in outlying communities. Grant proposals are by invitation only, and if we are successful in soliciting an invitation, we will work with FTDD on a proposal to be submitted in winter, 2018.
- Also tentatively planned is a shooting sports park in association with the Carter County Hunting and Fishing Association. This would be the Board’s largest project to date – a $1 million-plus, 20-acre-plus park with rifle and pistol ranges, skeet and trap ranges, and a clubhouse with classrooms. Board member and County Commissioner Randall Jenkins is leading the way. This is still in the proposal stage, with the first step being finding a suitable location.
- With the city of Elizabethton, we’re working on development of a mountain bike park at the site of the city’s long-closed dump, Sugar Hollow. This project is still in the proposal stage, with no definite plans at this time.
- Also tentatively planned for Spring, 2018 is a TDOT grant request to establish a network of road cycling routes throughout the county.