The Mountain Goat Trail through Grundy County, Tennessee, will more than double in size due to a new agreement between county leaders and rail transportation company CSX Corporation.
The county finalized a deal earlier this month to acquire 17 miles of former railbed to be converted into an asphalt multi-use trail system for the region. The addition will connect Tracy City — on the eastern side of the trail system — north to Coalmont before turning further east to Palmer. The CSX property connects Fiery Gizzard to Savage Gulf State Park.
"The addition of the CSX property in Grundy County is a game-changer for the Mountain Goat Trail," Mountain Goat Trail Alliance board president Nate Wilson said. "Taking the trail from 12 miles to almost 30 miles, with more to come in the future, enlarges the possibilities for tourism, supporting businesses, and connecting the communities here in the South Cumberland region."
When completed, officials expect the nearly 40-mile trail system to bring in residents, provide locals with recreational opportunities and spur business creation. A 2012 University of the South study estimated the trail will have an annual economic benefit of $1.2 million. It will connect Cowan in Franklin County onto the Cumberland Plateau, past the University of the South in Sewanee and through Monteagle, Tracy City and Coalmont before ending on the newly acquired section in Palmer.
Mountain Goat TrailView
The Mountain Goat Trail Alliance facilitated the acquisition with help from The Land Trust for Tennessee. The project was paid for by a Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development grant, the Lyndhurst Foundation and the South Cumberland Community Fund.
"The Mountain Goat Trail is such a visible, accessible beacon of the social, health and economic benefits of land conservation," The Land Trust for Tennessee President and CEO Liz McLaurin said. "Our organization is thrilled to partner on the transformation of this former railroad into a vibrant resource for Tennesseans and visitors alike."
Now, 4.6 miles of trail is finished, connecting Sewanee to Monteagle. Two additional sections are expected to be completed in 2019, growing that total to more than 10 miles. Those sections will connect downtown Tracy City to the elementary schools and continue toward Monteagle. The two sections scheduled to open next year will be connected but won't yet connect to the 4.6-mile completed section. The alliance is building the trail portions as soon as they are able to rather than waiting years to build it in succession.
The alliance committed to finishing the entire trail system in the next 10 years.
"The Mountain Goat Trail is a crucial part of our plans to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Grundy County, as well as visitors. We realize the trail will be completed in phases, but purchasing seventeen miles of Mountain Goat Railroad bed from CSX will allow us to continue developing the trail as a driver of wellness and economic development for our area," Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady said.
The trail runs along the path of the abandoned historic Mountain Goat Railroad and is part of a national Rails-to-Trail Conservancy program. The program turns unused railways into multi-use trails. It has built more than 31,000 miles of trails nationally with more than 8,000 miles of additional trails waiting to be built.