By Gary Gray
A new path is being cleared that would allow the Tannery Knobs Bike Park Task Force to push forward with final desig n and initial construction of the downtown Johnson City park before the property is donated to the city.
Instead of continuing to wait for the land transfer to happen, city officials have sent a proposed agreement to the property owner and task force members, suggesting the group move ahead with what has steamrolled far ahead of what would be termed preliminary plans. The city, in turn, would await the transfer and cover certain expenses as the park and trails are built.
City Manager Pete Peterson last week told The News & Neighbor some city commissioners were getting a bit antsy because the roughly 45-acre donation had not yet transpired. Meanwhile, task force members have been briskly promoting the park in the media.
Grant Summers of R&G Partners, which owns a total of 64.4 acres above the city’s Municipal & Safety Building, suggested publicly at a February budget workshop the park be built. He proposed the gift in exchange for a $300,000 commitment by the city for construction of trails, parking, bathrooms, a possible lookout tower and other amenities. City officials agreed, and they want the park to go forward.
“What we’ve decided at this point is for him to go ahead and make the improvements,” Peterson said one day prior to Summers receiving the proposal. “If we take possession of the property now, it may be a year before we could get bids out and everything in place.
“This is a great project, and we’re excited. The initial proposal was a donation followed by city construction. Mr. Summers has gotten much further into the project than anticipated. We wanted him to get a survey done, and that was about three or four months ago. In any case, we have committed to cover up to $300,000 for improvements.”
Summers was not immediately available for comment.
Task Force Chairman Abraham McIntyre guided The News & Neighbor to various location at the future park. McIntyre confirmed Summers had received the city’s proposal and that the project will keep moving ahead.
“This new approach is good,” he said. “I know Grant wants this park. And I don’t think there’s any hard feelings. He’s the one who brought this to the city. We’ve given Trail Solutions (the design arm of the International Mountain Biking Association in Boulder, Colo.) the ‘full steam ahead.’
“This will be done in phases, but people will be riding up here by Thanksgiving. We won’t get invoiced until work starts, and Trail Solutions has been good to us. We think by the time we have machinery up here, we’ll have some money from the city.”
Following a visit to a Colorado bike park, Summers told McIntyre (Appalachia Service Project Strategic Partnership vice president), “Wow! I wish we had a park like that,” McIntyre said.
“So he started chatting with Chad Wolfe (Trek Bicycle Store Johnson City owner). He got excited and called me and I got excited, so we started calling people to be on the task force at the end of last summer. We decided to get some like-minded people to help this come together.
“We didn’t have the knowledge to build a world-class trail, so we looked at a few trail design companies. Trek is a big IMBA supporter, so we reached out to them and they sent two of their representatives to talk with us. They said, ‘this is incredible.’ And when we told them we had the land, city support and a booming cycling community, they got excited. They told us this would be the only (municipal) park like this in the eastern part of the U.S.”
Several unsuccessful attempts were made to reach Wolfe by telephone last week to seek input on the new park.
The appraised value of the 64.4 acres is $193,200, according to Washington County’s most recent property appraisal in 2014.
Members of the Tannery Knobs Bike Park Task Force include Grant Summers, McIntyre, Chad Wolfe, J.B. Seay, Jodi Polha Jones, Holly Booksh, Jacob Grieb, Jim Hughes, Dan Reese and Jonathan Kinnick.
McIntyre said Trail Solutions has marked off trail boundaries, and much of the top of what actually is three peaks, or “knobs,” already has been cleared. He said the focus will be on mountain bike trails, but people also will be able to run at the park. He also said the groups want people to be able to park downtown, ride up to the park and enjoy themselves and afterwards go to a nearby restaurant or bar.
The park also is located a short distance from the Tweetsie Trail and TVA Credit Union Ballpark.
“I think it’s a unique project,” said Tyler Parsons, Johnson City Cardinals’ general manager and Johnson City Convention & Visitors Bureau board member. “The feedback I’ve gotten from young professionals is they think Tannery Knobs will help tie together Johnson City’s recreational corridor.
“There are opportunities stemming from the park. For example, we can host large-scale biking events at the ballpark. We also partnered with Trek during the year on what we called ‘The Cardinal Cruise — a ticket package that combined a bike ride on the Tweetsie Trail along with a game at the ballpark.”
Meanwhile, Summers-Taylor is about to complete the first phase of the water tank replacement and prepare the foundation to receive the new tank. The large tank can be seen on the right side while driving up Dennis Drive to Tannery Knobs Bike Park. All portions of this phase except for fencing is complete and will be closed out in October.
“The second phase of the project is the actual tank construction, which has been designed. It will advertise for bids next month,” said Tom Witherspoon, Johnson City Water and Sewer Services director. “We anticipate it will be complete and back in service between July and September 2018. The tank will be and remains operational at this time.”
The third phase of the project involves a new water transmission line from Market Street to the tank. It will be installed after the tank is returned to service and should be complete by the end of 2018.