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Progress: Gap Creek Park could be an example of cooperation between Elizabethton and Carter County

John Thompson • Mar 26, 2018 at 11:15 AM

ELIZABETHTON — There has been cooperation between the Carter County Parks and Recreation Board and the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department during the past few years, but a new endeavor by the county to establish a community park at the intersection of the Mary Patton Highway and the Old Gap Creek Road will require that cooperation to be increased and formalized.

That cooperation has already began at the highest levels of city and county government. Last December the Carter County Commission voted to spend $44,000 and agreed to a $50,000 tax credit to help in acquiring a 9.33-acre lot which it is hoped will one day have two adult-sized softball fields, a playground and a dog park.

There was opposition to the purchase from Commissioner Charles Von Cannon, who said access to the ball fields would require a bridge plus a new road. Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler, who said access to the park would not be from the Mary Patton Highway but from the old Gap Creek Road. He said that access would lead to a parking lot with space for 40 cars. He said the ball fields are on the opposite side of a creek, but only a pedestrian bridge would be needed.

Commissioner Randall Jenkins backed the proposed park, saying “This is our chance to be proactive.”

The Carter County Parks and Recreation Board voted to assist in the purchase by taking $6,000 from its funds. The Elizabethton City Council provided $4,000.

City Manager Jerome Kitchens said the investment would be a valuable addition to the city’s green space. The park would also serve a new residential subdivision that is currently being developed on Mary Patton Highway.

Ken Gough, chairman of the Carter County Parks and Recreation Board, said the development of the park is not yet clear, but the upcoming budget sessions for the next fiscal year should shed some light.

While funding from local government is important, Gough said the park and rec board will also be searching for all applicable grants to help in the development, much like how the community park was developed in Roan Mountain.

The park is inside the city limits of Elizabethan and near the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail and about three blocks from the Tweetsie Trail.

Gough said one high priority for the new park would be to place a monument to the Overmountain Men in the new park.

On Sept. 26, 1789, the Overmountain Men left Sycamore Shoals and marched to Gap Creek, then turned upstream, marching right through the land the park sits on. The Overmountain Men continued on that day to Roan Mountain. They then crossed the mountains on their way to fight a British force under Major Patrick Ferguson atop Kings Mountain.

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