JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Officials have broken ground on East Tennessee's first Rails to Trails project.
The Johnson City Press reports officials report the ceremony celebrated the first phase of the project, which will eventually become a pedestrian path called the Tweetsie Trail that stretches 10 miles from Johnson City to Elizabethton. Officials from both cities attended.
The first 6-mile section will offer recreational opportunities between the Alabama Street trail head in Johnson City and Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton.
Members of the Rails-to-Trails Task Force have raised about $135,000 and have launched a fundraising drive for more. The estimated cost for the entire project is about $530,000.
"It's a tremendously important project for both Johnson City and Elizabethton," said Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin. "We're kicking off today a 6-mile section which will be constructed entirely with private donations."
The trail will be on land that used to be controlled by the ET&WNC Railroad and have steam engines known as "tweetsies" because of the sound of their whistles. Officials project the trail will open by Labor Day weekend in 2014.
"The trail goes right through our personal property and the cemetery as well," said Bill Tetrick, who donated $30,000 to the effort. "We've always been interested in this trail. I think it will be a great thing for the entire community. Me and my wife and daughter have walked it and ridden horses on the route several times."