The O’Brien Watershed Bike and Hike Trails in Erwin is almost ready to open its first phase of trails to the public thanks to a $50,000 grant from T-Mobile.

Erwin was chosen as one of 25 recipients of T-Mobile’s Hometown Grants. The grants are meant to assist small towns with community development projects. T-Mobile presented a $50,000 check and certificate to the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County during a presentationon Thursday.

“Once we learned about the T-Mobile opportunity and their interest in investing in small towns across America, we felt like we had a really good project that fit what they were looking for,” said JEDB Chairman Lee Brown. “So we just followed and applied for the grant and got a notice a couple of weeks ago, ‘We’re coming to Erwin to make an award.’ So it’s a great thing.”

The T-Mobile Hometown grant will help with the completion of the parking lot for the trail system, and will allow the first phase of the trail system to be opened to the public in the spring of 2022.

“It’s going to enable us to finish the parking lot,” said Brown. “So we already have the first phase of the trails almost finished. So we’ll have the parking lot, we’ll be able to finish that, and be able to open this spring to the public.”

According to a release from the company, T-Mobile plans to commit $25 million to the Hometown Grant initiative to fund similar projects in small town communities over the next five years as well as hire 7,500 new employees in small towns.

The entire O’Brien Watershed Trails, which will be completed in three phases, is planned to be a 10-mile system of walking and biking trails spanning 116 acres in Erwin.

“We’ve chased a lot of grant funds, and I’m sorry to say a lot of them have not been successful,” Brown said. “But you never give up.”

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