Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press
At Monday afternoon’s announcement of Tweetsie Trail fundraiser “Dine Around,” trail Task Force Chairman Dr. Dan Schumaier gave all involved parties a chance to talk about the trail. One word kept resurfacing: excitement.
The trail that will stretch 10 miles from Alabama Street in Johnson City to downtown Elizabethton has generated a great deal of momentum since the idea came about just a few years ago.
“Dine Around” will take place April 1-2, where participating restaurants will give 10 percent of their profits to the trail. With that, Schumaier and members of local groups, including Chambers of Commerce from cities on both ends of the trail, are asking interested restaurants to contact the organizers to get involved and for diners to specifically dine at those participating restaurants.
“It’s a win-win for all of us,” Schumaier told the group that gathered at the announcement’s host restaurant, the Firehouse.
He said it benefits the project and gives a boost to local small businesses. He and the other involved parties agree this boost will be one of the best things to come from the trail, expected to open on Labor Day. The idea originally came from Steve Frabitore, owner of Tupelo Honey Cafe, which will be opening in the downtown area of Johnson City and sits less than a mile from the start of the trail.
Just down the road from Frabitore’s restaurant is the Firehouse, where owner Tom Seaton is equally enthusiastic about getting the foot traffic in the area.
“The more traffic in downtown Johnson City, the better,” said Justin Seaton, speaking on behalf of his family’s restaurant.
The project brings the communities on each end of the trail together, and has been a testament to the cooperation needed to make a successful trail, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said.
He joked that he might have spent more time on the trail than just about anyone else, referencing when he was a child several decades before and traveled on the tracks from Cedar Grove to Happy Valley School.
He said his worry then was looking out for the Tweetsie train. Schumaier jumped in and doubled that concern for the trail, which is now going through construction. He said people shouldn’t go on it just yet because of the equipment being used there.
With a developed recreational trail, members of the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce said it will be much easier for them to recruit new businesses to both sides of the trail.
Washington County Economic Development Council CEO Mitch Miller said it’s the regional effort that will have that desired long-lasting effect on the area.
“Regionalism is an important component of economy development,” Miller said.
They jokingly referred to the “trail north of here,” in reference to the Virginia Creeper Trail, which might serve as somewhat of a competitor when construction of the Tweetsie Trail is complete.
With a recent multifaceted fundraising push from the project’s task force in the way of marketing and mailings, fund goals have been met. That includes six out of seven bridges on the trail that have been auctioned off to parties who buy the right to put their names upon them, at varying costs. The final bridge, the biggest of them all, spans the Elizabethton highway. It’s still available, with a $60,000 price tag.
Schumaier said even though it hasn’t sold yet, he was absolutely not worried about a bidder, or bidders, coming forward to buy the naming rights. He said they haven’t even pursued possible buyers just yet, and that the time will come.
Any restaurateurs interested in joining the list of “Dine Around” establishments can call the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce at 461-8000 until the sign up ends Jan 31.
More information on the trail can be found at the official website, www.tweetsietrail.com.