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Region should embrace projects like Tweetsie Trail

Staff Report • Sep 23, 2013 at 10:34 AM

We were pleased to learn recently that the 10-mile railroad corridor between Johnson City and Elizabethton being converted into a walking and biking trail can be called the Tweetsie Trail as planned. There was some question if that name might face a legal challenge from the Tweetsie Railroad amusement park in Blowing Rock, N.C. Members of the Rails-to-Trails Task Force have been told that no such obstacle exists. That’s good news because the Tweetsie Trail is the most appropriate name for the project. Tweetsie was what people in this area called the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad, which connected the major railroads in Johnson City with the iron deposits in Cranberry Creek, N.C. The name came from the shrill “tweet, tweet” of the train whistles that were often heard echoing through mountains. The Tweetsie Trail will follow the railroad’s former path from Johnson City to Elizabethton. The project promises to protect this scenic corridor from encroaching development. Periodically, we hear from naysayers who believe government has no business protecting green spaces or providing much-needed recreational opportunities for its residents. They argue it is a waste of city tax dollars. To the contrary, there’s nothing wasteful about the proposed Tweetsie Trail. We believe the Tweetsie Trail will be as successful as the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is considered to be the best rail-totrail in North America. The 34-mile Creeper Trail winds through Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. It has become one of the region’s premiere destinations for hikers, bikers and eco-tourists. Of course the naysayers were predicting doom and gloom way back in the late 1980s when city commissioners voted to purchase the Arney Farm on the banks of Boone Lake. They said no one will want to drive all the way out to Boone Lake to visit a city park. Boy, were they wrong. That property, of course, was developed as Winged Deer Park and is now one of the most visited and beloved municipal parks in the region. We must also remember the Tweetsie Trail isn’t just a Johnson City or Elizabethton project. It’s a regional project, one that will need donations and support from everyone living here in Northeast Tennessee.

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