Unicoi board receives connector trail proposals

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 16, 2019 at 11:00 PM

UNICOI — The Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen got its first look at alternate proposals for a 4.8-mile walking and biking trail to connect the town’s Pinnacle Fire Tower trail with the Linear Trail in Erwin.

Rhonda Salyer with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Melody Hunter with the engineering firm CDM Smith presented the plans for two alternative trail routes along Zane Whitson Road and Highway 107.

Salyer said the purpose was to gather the board’s input for a final plan to be completed by the Sept. 30 deadline started in a $90,000 TDOT trail planning grant awarded last year to Unicoi, Erwin and Unicoi County.

Unicoi County commissioners declined to participate in the grant earlier this year, leading the towns of Unicoi and Erwin to divide $9,000 in matching funds required to secure the grant.

Hunter told the board that the plans are strictly conceptual at this time and none of the proposed routes are fixed. When complete, a final plan will be presented to both boards for approval. She said approval will allow the towns to move forward for additional grants available for the trail’s design and construction.

Salyer said that even upon finalization and approval by the two boards, the plan will only say “this is possible” and not that “you have to do this.”

Mayor Johnny Lynch and Alderman Jeff Linville both expressed a preference for the trail to follow the larger and more heavily traveled Highway 107.

Lynch said the highway would avoid anticipated opposition from landowners along Zane Whitson. And Linville said the highway would also distance the trail from any special construction requirements that could be imposed by the railroad that runs parallel to Zane Whitson.

In other business, the board authorized a contract with Tysinger, Hampton and Partners for construction of a new bridge over Dry Creek on R.W. Estates Road. The bridge is one of two in Unicoi that will be replaced with 100 percent of the construction cost to be paid by TDOT.

Also on Monday, Town Recorder Debbie Kessler told the board the search for Unicoi’s first police and municipal code enforcement officer has been narrowed to four applicants, who are scheduled for interviews on Thursday and Friday.