By Tammy Childress and Scott Robertson
After years of dreaming and months of fund-raising, planning and restoration work, Tweetsie Trail Task Force members Tuesday announced the date on which the Elizabethton to Johnson City trail will open to the public.
“The Tweetsie Trail Trek Saturday morning, August 30 will be a great way to kick off Labor Day weekend,” said Jenny Brock, Johnson City commissioner.
The 4.3 mile trek will begin at Lions Field in Elizabethton and end at Memorial Park Community Center in Johnson City. “When completed,” said Dr. Dan Schumaier, Tweetsie Trail Task Force chair, “this will be the longest rails to trails in Tennessee.”
Those wishing to run the trail will get an 8:30 a.m. start, while walkers will begin traversing the trail at 9:00 a.m. Cyclists will wait until noon to begin their trek.
The task force is asking that anyone interested in taking part register online at tweetsietrail.com/trek. Early registration runs through August 22 and is $20 per person ($15 for students). Those who register and take part will receive a T-shirt and medallion emblazoned with the words, “I did it first!” Funds raised by the trek will go toward trail construction and maintenance costs.
Brock, who chairs the annual Turkey Trot road race in Johnson City, put out a call to all the “Turkey Trotters” to take part in the Tweetsie Trail Trek. “We hope they will be the basis for a big opening day crowd,” said Brock. The 2013 Turkey Trot drew over 3,700 participants.
A festival atmosphere will pervade the after-event festivities at the Community Center. Sponsor vendors will have booths and there will be food, drink, games, music and photos.
“This is the first time that the Memorial Park Community Center will be used for this kind of festival, “ said Katie Pindzola, who is organizing the post-trek activities. “ETSU’s bluegrass program is providing two bands. Also, a band called “this mountain” which has been getting a lot of attention lately, will be playing from 10:30 to 12:30. It’ll just be a great way to start the holiday weekend.”
Since foot-traffic along the trail will all be going from Elizabethton toward Johnson City, shuttle service will be provided between the two cities. Johnson City residents are encouraged to park at Cardinal Park and take the shuttle to Elizabethton. Shuttles will begin running at 6:30 a.m.
Alternately, Johnson Citians can drive to Elizabethton High School, ride the shuttle to Lions Field, take the trek, then shuttle back to EHS. Or if one is patient and wants to make a day of it, the trail will open to two-way traffic after 3 p.m.
“This trail connects the cities of Johnson City and Elizabethton in such a positive way. So come,” invited Brock. “Walk, bike, hike, trot or trek, but come.”
Crews continue working to have the trail ready for traffic by Labor Day weekend. Renovation, repair and restoration work on three of the seven bridges along the trail has been completed. Schumaier told the task force Tuesday evening, “The big stuff should be complete by sometime around the first or second week in July.”