published Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Damaged Chattanooga trails to be cleaned up

A local trail preservation nonprofit, Wild Trails, is giving $10,000 toward trail maintenance and tornado cleanup on some wilderness paths decimated by the April twisters.

"We had a crazy year," said Mark McKnight, a trail runner and board member of Wild Trails. "I have never seen the kind of wreckage that we saw on the trails. Running up Lookout Mountain, it's like a graveyard of trees."

The money, raised through donations, will help repair tornado-damaged trails on Lookout Mountain and to rebuild trails in Lula Lake and the 5-Points trail system.

The Cumberland Trail Conference plans to construct trails in the North Chickamauga Gorge segment of the Cumberland Trail and the recently acquired Graysville Mountain Resource Management Area in Hamilton County.

Southern Adventist University in Collegedale will use some of the money to promote an expansion of its existing Biology Trail, and the Trust For Public Land will use its portion to create a coordinated trail system that runners, walkers and cyclists can use on Stringer's Ridge.

"The need is amazing," said Randy Whorton, executive director of Wild Trails. "It needs trail heads and kiosks and maps. There is a big push to get the first section [of trail on Stringer's Ridge] readily available, even wheelchair-accessible.

"I personally think it's the prettiest view in Chattanooga," Whorton said.

Williams Island, in the center of the Tennessee River just downriver from Moccasin Bend, will also benefit from funding. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust will upgrade one-mile and four-mile trails on the island while preserving its 10,000-year-old archaeological significance.

Whorton said he hopes the funds will be a first step in creating an outdoor museum on the island where people can see old Indian campsites and archaeological digs.

McKnight said local outdoor nonprofits struggle, like other nonprofits, to meet immediate needs in the tough economy. Wild Trails, which started in 2007 to promote trail running and has several hundred members in the area, is working on mapping local trails for its interactive website.

"Being able to give away grants right now feels really good," he said.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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