Dan Reese, project manager for the Washington County Economic Development Council, has been named chairman of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner’s Council on Greenways and Trails.
For the past six years, Reese has worked with the Commissioner’s Council, but this is the first time he has been appointed chairman. He will assume the role Feb. 1.
In his role as chairman, Reese will lead a 15-member council of representatives from across the state — all of whom provide guidance on how funds are used for greenways and trails in Tennessee.
“Over the years, more counties have started to look at this as not a frivolous way to spend money but as a need for their community,” he said.
“A lot of people when they’re looking at an area to either visit or sometimes to move to, they want to know what kind of opportunities there are for recreation, for getting around and this makes Johnson City and the area a destination.”
The importance of greenways and trails to communities have become integral to spurring economic development and healthier lifestyles.
“We found out that when companies are looking at a community or wanting to expand, they’re looking at what the natural resources are there, is there available recreation for their employees, what you have that will help keep a healthy group of employees, and greenways and trails provide that,” Reese said.
In addition to his work with the Economic Development Council and the Commissioner’s Council, Reese also acts as the facilitator of the Economic Summit’s Livable Communities Development Group. That group is currently working on ways to connect local communities through outdoor recreational areas, such as bike and walking paths.
Reese’s work promoting the Tweetsie Trail rails-to-trails project led to his initial involvement with the Greenways and Trails program. Although it’s taken a long time to get rolling, Reese said they soon will begin making progress on turning a 10-mile stretch of rail line from Johnson City to Elizabethton into a bike and walking trail.
“What we will have soon is a master plan that will move us forward with construction on that project. That plan is slated to show not only how that trail will be built but how the Tweetsie will be connected to our city and our county,” he said.
The presence of greenways and trails, like those in Johnson City and throughout much of Northeast Tennessee, provide ample ways for people of all ages to travel, exercise and improve quality of life.
Reese said the more opportunities communities have to connect schools, parks, areas of education and areas of health care, the better off they will be.
He pointed to the historic Tree Streets neighborhood as an example of where all of those assets come together to better the community.
“We can’t go back and rebuild neighborhoods but we can connect them, and to me, that’s part of what my job as chair of that commission is about is to help communities connect those assets,” he said.
While he will work to establish better greenways and trails across the state, Reese said he also will make sure the needs of Northeast Tennessee are heard.
“One of the things that tends to happen in Nashville is we’re forgotten about, so having a voice in the center of the capital for Northeast Tennessee means that more people learn about what we have, why it’s a beautiful place and why people should be visiting or working or living here,” he said.
For more information about the Greenways and Trails program, visit www.tn.gov/environment/recreation/greentrails.shtml.