Simplifying donation process goal of trail task force

Tony Casey • Nov 6, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Make the donation process easy for potential donors of the future Tweetsie Trail. This was the motto of the Rails-to-Trails task force, as the group held its monthly meeting in the Administration Conference Room of the Municipal Safety Building Tuesday night.

To pursue these donors, the board plans to carry out its tasks in the correct order. They will need to purchase the correct domain name for the official website they want — www.tweetsietrail.com — before finalizing the project’s information brochure. This is all to be completed before a planned Nov. 20 news conference where board chairman Dr. Dan Schumaier will speak at the trail head sign on Alabama Street at 2 p.m.

The task force is confident things will be lined up by then, and then can move forward. The main purpose of the news conference will be to introduce the different donation levels for the public to be a part of the project.

A $1,500 price tag sits on the domain name www.tweetsietrail.com. While the price might seem lofty, most task force members pushed to have the city move quickly in buying it as soon as possible, perhaps at a lower rate, if they are able.

Mike Mefford presented information to the group showing how they would send out mailers to 4,000 Johnson City residents, whose households crest the $200,000 per year mark, as well as 1,000 businesses. The board hopes to be able to cultivate those high-level donors, as well as those in the lower levels.

The price structure for the donation levels earning a name on one of the seven bridges was set at $10,000 for five of the smaller bridges, $30,000 for the medium bridge, and $60,000 for the largest bridge spanning U.S. Highway 321. Schumaier clarified that there are actually only six bridges available, as he has plans to “buy” one of the smaller bridges.

Excitement surrounds the donation portion of the project, as the group looks to corral enough donation money for the first of the three sections of the trail, which brings it all the way to Sycamore Shoals in Elizabethton. “TT” Tweetsie Trail stickers with the website’s address under it, resembling the “OBX” Outer Banks and “HH” Hilton Head bumper stickers, will be passed given out to donors, to hopefully generate buzz about the donation campaign.

“This is a revenue trail,” Vice Mayor Clayton Stout said about what the recreational trail will bring to the region.

Task force member Ken Gough said he had spoken with a potential large donor on the Elizabethton side who was looking for more concrete promises about when the latter two sections would be completed. Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin and other task force members were hesitant to throw out any kind of time line, but did say that, of course because the property had been purchased and because the last two sections didn’t contain any bridges, they would be the easiest, simplest parts of the project.

In Elizabethton there will be a sign similar to the one serving as a backdrop to the task force’s news conference in Johnson City. It was pointed out that about 33,000 cars will drive by that sign every single day, also likely to generate buzz about the project.

The owner of the quarry property on the Tweetsie Trail was present and brought up the concern that she might be liable if someone got hurt around her property after task force member Stephen Darden spoke of how nice it would be to have somewhat of a lookout over the quarry.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola and Darden put her concerns, and the concerns of other members to rest, when they described a safe place to enjoy the scenery.

“It’s a pretty spot for a deck,” Darden said. “Not a high dive.”

Moving forward, Pindzola said that the company Tysinger Hampton and Partners would be dropping off the construction plans in the next few weeks, then they could make purchase orders and get to work.

“We can start construction as soon as leaf season is done,” Pindzola said.

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