HAMPTON — A small bike trail will be getting larger and more challenging, thanks to the cooperation and kindness between a small city and a Christian summer camp.
The Elizabethton City Council is preparing to go into a lease agreement with Doe River Gorge Ministries on Thursday evening that will allow the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to expand its mountain bike trail from 3.5 miles with 11 miles of new trails.
It all begins with water, and more than half of the water for Elizabethton’s public water system comes from the mountain spring at Hampton. The city purchased 238 acres of hills and forest around the spring to provide a protective watershed and built a small mountain bike trail on the property in partnership with the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association of the Tri-Cities.
Now there are plans to make the bicycle trail larger by building trails on the neighboring forested land in Doe River Gorge. That land, on which the fabled East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad once ran its Tweetsie narrow-gauge train through a steep and winding gorge, is now the property of a Christian camp known as the Doe River Gorge Ministry.
Both the city parks department and the Christian youth camp see the benefit of the mountain trail and are working together to extend it. Doe River Gorge has agreed to lease 52.75 acres of its property to Elizabethton for five years, with an automatic renewal of another five years unless there is action to end the lease.
The rent will be the princely sum of zero dollars for the entire five years. In exchange, the summer camp has the right to use the trails and equipment whenever it wants.