By Richard Rourk
The Unicoi County Rafting, Tourism and Economic Development Committee heard from Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County Chairman Lee Brown on Wednesday about a proposed bike trail.
“We are still working with contractors to stamp down some numbers but we are now moving on to grant applications,” Brown said. “The ARC Grant will be put together in March and we will send it in before the April deadline.”
The trail is a 116-acre multi-modal trail system that would be located at the O’Brien watershed in Erwin. More information and a map of the proposed trail are available on the Friends of the O’Brien Watershed Trails Facebook page.
According to Brown, the biggest issue going forward will be securing matching funds. “As we are piecing together the puzzle, we would need a $50,000 commitment from both the county and the Town of Erwin,” Brown said. “If we don’t get funded it won’t cost anything, but the hope is to get funded. The ARC Power Grant would be enough to fund the whole project and with a $50,000 commitment from the county as well as a $50,000 commitment from the town we should be in good shape to secure that funding.”
Brown confirmed that other grants are being sought after as well. “We are looking at any funding we can secure,” he said. “In all these grants they are looking for communities that are helping themselves. So if we don’t have any matching funds for the ARC grant then we may not be able to get it.”
According to Brown, a rough estimate of the 116-acre multi-modal trail system would put the cost somewhere between $,500,000 and a million dollars. “I don’t have a hard number but it would be my guess the total project would cost between a half-million to a million dollars and a majority of that would come from the ARC grant.”
Brown said that the trail could bring many outdoor enthusiasts to Erwin. “You can see the need and impact of a bike trail by looking at the bike trails in Johnson City,” Brown said. “If everything goes as planned this trail could be opened up sometime in 2022. This is going to be for the greater good of our community.”
Following Brown’s presentation, the Unicoi County Rafting, Tourism and Economic Development Committee voted unanimously to have the Unicoi County Commission hear from Brown and to vote on contributing a $50,000 startup to secure a grant to complete the proposed trail.
The Unicoi County Commission could hear the proposal at their next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.
As of The Erwin Record’s deadline, there have been no confirmed meeting date and time for the bike trail to be discussed by the Town of Erwin.