ERWIN — Gov. Bill Haslam was joined by other state and local officials at Erwin Town Hall on Thursday afternoon as he presented Tennessee Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant Program checks to two of Unicoi County’s governmental entities.
In total, the towns of Erwin and Unicoi received more than $490,000 in grant funding. Haslam, who spoke briefly at the ceremony, said the grants provide cities, counties and towns with the funding needed to undertake projects they may not be able to afford to complete themselves.
“They’re all about enhancing the quality of life,” Haslam said of the grants.
The town of Erwin received $463,787 for Phase II of its Linear Trail project. This phase includes the construction of 705 feet of pedestrian/bicycle trail parallel to Old Fishery Road and Zane C. Whitson Drive. It will also feature a pedestrian tunnel under Harris Hollow Road.
Completion of this phase would link the other portion of the Linear Trail to Fishery Park.
“It’s great for us,” Erwin Vice Mayor Glenn Tilson said.
The town of Unicoi received $30,016 for the installation of directional signage and an information kiosk to be constructed at Town Hall. The kiosk will provide visitors with easy access to information about the area, including maps and brochures, at all times of the day.
Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch said the kiosk goes along with the promotion of tourism.
“Our little town, although it’s a small town, it’s spread out pretty well,” Lynch said. “We need some kind of directional service there for visitors to our town. We want to direct people to our businesses and our industries and our churches, all the activities we have out in the town of Unicoi.”
State Sen. Steve Southerland said tourism is Tennessee’s second-largest industry and, despite the economic climate, it realized growth last year. He said the projects to be funded with the grants will assist tourists and could serve to entice visitors to the county.
“With the economy the way it is, it’s good to have been centrally located where tourists are willing to come and spend their dollars, and we welcome them and we hope this encourages more people to come over,” Southerland said.