Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Laura Oakley Solyom, the co-chair of the committee Soddy-Daisy Rail-to-Trail, stands in front of the old railway that she and her organization hope to turn into a greenway for the Soddy-Daisy community.
Soddy-Daisy commissioners put a 7-year-old rails-to-trails plan back on track Thursday.
Now they're hoping their action will persuade Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey and County Commissioner Fred Skillern not to derail the six-mile walking, biking and horse path.
Jim Adams, Soddy-Daisy's newly elected mayor, received commission authorization to sign an agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to lease three miles of the utility's abandoned rail line inside city limits.
But the city could face a county roadblock to a companion lease with TVA to convert a second three-mile section of rail trail that lies in the county.
Skillern has voiced opposition to the trail, and Ramsey wouldn't say Thursday whether the Soddy-Daisy commission's move would influence him to sign off on the lease agreement.
"It's been off the radar, and I haven't given it any thought," Ramsey said. "Let's see what the proposals are. Until then, I don't have anything further to say on it."
Although the trail is not expected to cost city or county taxpayers any money, Skillern said he has questions about it.
"I just don't support it. This one crosses six county roads and numerous county driveways," he said. "Until I'm satisfied that all the safety factors, and the cost and upkeep, have been satisfied, I am not in support of it."
The rails-to-trail plan has long been supported by Laura Oakley Solyom, who earlier this year tried to wrest from Skillern the Republican nomination for the County Commission's District 1 seat.
Skillern denied that Solyom's political run has anything to do with his position.
But Adams and Solyom say Skillern's opposition is about personality and is only hurting the residents of Soddy-Daisy and the county.
"How many roads does the Riverwalk cross (running from Chickamauga Dam and along a large chunk of Amnicola Highway to Ross's Landing)?" Solyum asked. "Most of us learned to cross the street safely when we were children."
Adams said the cost question, too, is non-starter.
"This is a classic gift," he said.
The Soddy-Daisy Rails-to-Trails Advocacy Group will pay TVA the $5,000 cost of the 25-year lease for all six miles of the rail line, Adams said. The group also will pay for the paving and construction on the trail, he said, and TVA will remove the rails and crossties.
Adams hopes the city's action, and a petition with 1,000 residents' signatures, will focus new attention on the proposal.
"We answered all the concerns," he said. "Claude Ramsey won't sign off on the section in county because Skillern won't get out of the way," Adams said. "Fred Skillern is the whole problem."
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...