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Is an Overmountain Victory Trail a good idea for the region?

Johnson City Press • Jun 19, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Local officials are working to build a walking and biking trail that retraces the steps that patriots from Southwest Virginia took more than 237 years on their way to one of the most pivotal battles of the American Revolution.

The trail would mark the route taken by men from Southwest Virginia in September 1780 from Abingdon, Virginia, to muster at Sycamore Shoals in Tennessee.

After joining with men from the Watauga, Nolichucky and Holston settlements on the banks of the Watauga River, these patriots — known as the Overmountain Men — marched over the Appalachian Mountains to confront loyalist troops under the command of British Major Patrick Ferguson at Kings Mountain in South Carolina.

The Overmountain Men played a key role in defeating Ferguson in a battle that lifted patriot morale and sparked subsequent victories in the South. It was just little less than a year later that the British surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia.

Currently, the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail is primarily designated as a route for motorists, but recently the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Park Service have launched an effort to create a 30-mile walking and biking trail between the mustering grounds in Abingdon and Sycamore Shoals.

Press Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson reported earlier this month that Jon Hartman, Elizabethton’s director of planning and economic development, said his office was approached by staff from the U.S. National Park Service a little over a year ago about developing the new Overmountain Trail.

“I contacted my colleagues in other surrounding jurisdictions,” Hartman wrote in a brief sent to the Elizabethton City Council. “We met and started working with our individual government agencies to try to put together the funding for this plan.”

He said the park service was proposing a 60/40 matching grant to the local jurisdictions to put toward the master planning for the proposed trail. Hartman said every city and county the trail passes through has agreed to contribute to the 40 percent needed for the planning grant.

Contributions would come from: Elizabethton, $5,000; Carter County, $5,000; Sullivan County, $7,000; Bluff City, $3,000; Bristol Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization, $5,000; Washington County, Virginia, $2,500; Abingdon, $5,000; Rocky Mount Chapter of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, $2,000; East Tennessee Foundation, $2,500; Eastman Chemical Co., $2,000.

The National Park Service would fund $61,500 to the Rocky Mount Chapter of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association to coordinate master planning efforts. The service would also apply for funding, where feasible, for construction of the trail after the master plan is completed.

The proposed end of the trail at Sycamore Shoals would come within a few hundred feet of the Tweetsie Trail, providing another 10 miles of trail and access to Johnson City.

We want to her from you. Do you think an Overmountain Victory Trail is a good investment for the jurisdictions involved?

Send your comments to mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification purposes.

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