Should horses be allowed on Tweetsie Trail?

Tony Casey • Nov 27, 2013 at 11:37 AM

A great amount of recent progress has members of the Rails-to-Trail task force excited about the months ahead. But one issue — allowing horses on the 10-mile recreational trail starting in Johnson City — will have to be determined at a later date.

At its monthly meeting in the Administrative Conference Room of the Municipal and Safety Building, the group was presented by member Fred Alsop with a recap of information collected on the matter. Alsop mentioned some pros and cons to having the animals on the trail.

While the board seemed unwilling to say anything definitive against the idea, questions were raised about the safety of horses mingling with persons on bikes and with other animals like dogs.

Task force chairman Dr. Dan Schumaier said he’s owned horses in the past, but wouldn’t have considered loading up a horse trailer for the 4-mile length that would be available on the Tweetsie. Because all seem to agree that urban areas should be off-limits to horse riding, that leaves a smaller section of the trail that would be available for horses.

Member Kenneth Gough, who seems to be the biggest supporter of horses on the board, said it would be exactly like the 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail, and sees no reason to oppose allowance of the animals.

“For the life of me, I can’t see why we’d ban horses in the (non-urban) areas,” Gough said.

Schumaier clarified that no one was banning anything just yet, and that it would be a decision that should be made down the road when the trail is better put together and the task force would have a better idea of the logistics.

Ray Flynn inquired into the length of the Tweetsie versus the length of the Creeper Trail, and it raised the question whether it accommodate the massive animals. Alsop’s report also brought up questions into how signage and etiquette would be posted and understood, if water had to be provided, if the weight of the horses would break down the trail quicker than use by humans, if there would have to be handicap accessibilities for anyone trying to mount a horse or issues with a horse being spooked by bikes and dogs.

He said some of the literature he read recommended that their be at least 10 miles of trail for the horses to use.

One suggested fix, Schumaier mentioned with the approval of other members, would be possibly having certain days when horses would be allowed.

Schumaier expressed his excitement that of the seven available bridges on the trail that were available to bear the name of donors, only the very longest bridge, over the Elizabethton Highway, was still available for a $60,000 donation. And that was before the committee sought out businesses.

He also shared that even without beginning their fundraising drive that would encompass mailers, letters, emails, media appearances and presentations, they had already racked up more than $100,000 for the project. Another aspect of fundraising is coming from Tupelo Honey owner Steve Frabitore, who will be organizing a designated day with local restaurants where 10 percent of the day’s profits will go to the Tweetsie Trail.

Another announcement was made that the project’s website was up and running, and can be found at www.tweetsietrail.com. - See more at: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/112849/should-horses-be-allowed-on-tweetsie-trail#sthash.myrZs27S.dpuf

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