Trail projects making tracks in Erwin, Unicoi and Unicoi County

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 26, 2018 at 10:45 AM

ERWIN — The widely popular Erwin Linear Trail is branching out.

After many years of planning, work to extend the town’s walking and biking trail north to Fishery Park via a tunnel beneath Harris Hollow Road got underway in early March and is expected to be completed in July.

Some seven years in the making, the 1,000-foot, $1.1 million expansion is being funded with nearly $889,000 in grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and approximately $120,000 in funding from the town.

When complete, the expansion is expected to improve the both aesthetics of trail and the safety of the many walkers and bikers who use it.

Still in the planning phase is a larger grant-funded extension that will take the linear trail about one mile north from the park to the Erwin town limit, another mile north through Unicoi County to the town of Unicoi and about two miles further to the Unicoi’s equally popular Pinnacle Trail up Buffalo Mountain.

Grant funding for the subsequent trail extensions were included in an Appalachian Regional Commission Power Grant awarded jointly to Unicoi County and the two towns late last year.

Erwin Town Recorder Glenn Rosenoff stressed that while some preliminary engineering drawings have been completed for the subsequent trail expansions, the project is still very early in the planning phase and nothing is set in stone.

In neighboring Unicoi, Mayor Johnny Lynch said two related projects that could come to fruition in the relatively near future include a small gravel parking area near the Pinnacle Trail head and short trail extension from the trailhead to the nearby Maple Grove commercial center.

On the opposite end of Unicoi County, County Mayor Greg Lynch said a series of large and small grant-funded projects on the county’s to do list include construction of a flat walking trail in the Flag Pond community to complement the trails in Erwin and Unicoi.

As work on current linear trail expansion progresses, Harris Hollow Road will be closed for about four weeks beginning in early April. Traffic will be detoured along Zane Whitson Drive and Old Fishery Road to North Main Avenue.

The nearby Interstate 26 exit will also be impacted. While Exit 36 will remain open, flashing signs will be installed on the interstate to direct westbound drivers to the Tinker Road Exit at Unicoi and eastbound travelers to Exit 37 at Second Street (Highway 107) near downtown Erwin.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.