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Destiny Johnson and her daughter Maliyah walk through Swinging Bridge Park on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in Dayton, Tenn. The city was awarded a $348,477 grant from TDOT to fund phase 2 of a greenway system that would connect Point Park to downtown Dayton along Richland Creek.

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Grant funds work on Dayton, Tenn., greenway

DAYTON, Tenn. — A Tennessee Department of Transportation enhancement grant will fund the initial phase of an almost two-mile pedestrian greenway system to connect downtown Dayton, the Bryan College campus and the small city's parks and shopping.

The three connections the greenway project creates across the four heavily traveled lanes of U.S. Highway 27 answer safety concerns for college students and tournament anglers who now cross the highway with little protection. And the paths will link people on foot, bicycles, skateboards and roller skates to the town's business district, walking track and open spaces and shoreline at Point Park, Rhea Economic and Tourism Council executive director Dennis Tumlin said.

"This is for the heart of the master plan," Tumlin said. The 2014 estimated cost of the total project was about $3 million.

The $348,477 grant awarded this summer funds the central section of the system, Tumlin said. Point Park, on the shores of Chickamauga Lake, is the activity center of the system, where events such as festivals, fishing tournaments and car shows will be linked by the greenway system to the town's economic center and most of the town's parking.

A grant application was denied a couple of years ago, but a second one was filed after a trip to Cleveland, Tenn., to see the large greenway system there and get some coaching on the grant's finer points, Tumlin said. A little help from state legislators in Nashville made the second attempt a success, he said.

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The initial greenway path will start off of Main Street near the Dayton Walking Track and its swinging bridge, pass east under the U.S. 27 bridge to Point Park, then trace the shoreline north around the park to pass under the State Route 30 East bridge, then back under the other U.S. 27 bridge, continuing to the Market Street intersection with Highway 30 West.

The grant includes a local funding match of 20 percent, or about $87,000. Tumlin said Dayton's status as a "tier 3 distressed community" means officials in the future can apply for grants with a local match as low as 5 percent.

Dayton Mayor Gary Louallen said pedestrian safety crossing U.S. 27 is a continuing concern of his, especially during the school year at Bryan.

"There are days when there are 20 to 30 students that look like a flock of geese trying to get across the [U.S. 27] bypass," Louallen said. Physically challenged students face even more danger, he said.

"We're trying to utilize our lake because it's been such a revenue increase for us on sales tax," Louallen said, noting most people in Dayton support the greenway.

Recent sales tax history shows sales tax collections related to summer fishing tournaments equals sales tax collections at Christmas, he and Tumlim said.

Tumlin said the greenway fits with coming improvements at the Dayton Boat Dock where nine new boat ramps, more parking and a deeper launch area are planned.

The two projects, while separate, create a "master vision" for the activities area and downtown, Tumlin said.

Dayton father and lifelong resident Chris Sharp, 26, was enjoying some time with his 7-month-old son, Camden, on Tuesday at the city's walking track and swinging bridge, but he was unaware of plans for the greenway.

"I think that'd be great," said Sharp, a computer programmer who works from home. "We come out here every day to walk and swing."

A greenway would offer more space and adventure to their excursions, Sharp said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

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