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Tannery Knobs now open, ribbon cutting set for Friday

David Floyd • Jun 10, 2019 at 7:43 PM

Developer Grant Summers, president of Summers-Taylor Inc., estimates its been three years since he started having conversations about putting a series of mountain bike trails in the hills above downtown Johnson City.

Now, the Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park, the result of those efforts, is open. Johnson City quietly opened the gates of the park at noon on June 6 but will hold a formal ribbon cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. June 14.

“I’m not necessarily a mountain biker myself, but we wanted something that would overall improve the quality of life and attractiveness of Johnson City,” Summers said.

In exchange for reimbursements for the cost of constructing the trail systems, Summers, who owned the property and spearheaded the project, would complete the park and then transfer ownership to the city, which would then operate the facility.

During a meeting in May, the Johnson City Commission approved about $540,000 in reimbursements for the cost of constructing and designing the park.

“It just really fit in well with the direction that we were trying to go,” said Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock.

The park’s 3.7 miles of bike trails are color-coded to correspond with their difficulty level. The park’s green trail, called Breakfast Club, is for beginners, blue trails are more difficult, and black trails are designed for the most experienced bikers. A few of the trails are also open to hikers.

Adjacent to the parking area, Tannery Knobs also has a concrete pump track, a circuit composed of bumps and banked turns.

Jim Hughes, Johnson City’s interim assistant parks director, said the city is still in the process of a putting up a “guard shed,” which will house city personnel to keep an eye on the park during its hours of operation. He anticipates the building should be done by the end of the week.

The city has installed port-a-potties in the park, but Hughes said there have been conversations about putting a visitors center on the property with more permanent restrooms. He said the city has also talked about paving the park’s gravel parking lot.

Because of its close proximity, Dianna Cantler, downtown development director for the Johnson City Development Authority, said the park provides tourists and residents another reason to visit the city’s downtown corridor.

“The fact that people can come, park downtown, ride their bike on the Tweetsie Trail or Tannery Knobs or both and then come downtown and enjoy our restaurants and other amenities really sets us apart from other outdoor recreation communities,” she said.

It’s also another resource the city can leverage to attract young entrepreneurs and professionals to Johnson City, Cantler said.

“They want to work in a thriving downtown,” she said, “but they want to also get on their bike during their lunch hour and ride a few miles. We have that capability now with Tannery Knobs.”

In addition to acting as an extra way to attract people to the area, Brock believes Tannery Knobs and the city’s focus on outdoor recreation can also help encourage an early interest in biking.

“With all the health issues we experience in East Tennessee, if we get our kids started early, maybe we’ll be able to promote them being more active rather than sedentary and playing on their electronic devices all the time,” Brock said.

The sport is already gaining traction in Johnson City. At Science Hill High School, Brock said the mountain biking team has grown from five or six participants to more than 30 this year.

“You can see the enthusiasm that’s being created because now we have access some very unique features around biking,” Brock said.

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