Maryville, Alcoa and Blount County officials have announced and discussed timelines, costs and plans for their portions of the massive greenway project planned to stretch from Knoxville to Townsend.
Representatives from each government along with business officials and trail experts discussed details of the multipart project Thursday at the Blount Partnership building in Maryville. It’s been about a year since the group last convened, presenters said, and updates on progress abounded.
Of specific note was a new section of the greenway the county has committed to working with. Doug Hancock, senior planner with development services, said being able to work on a portion of the trail is a new and unique opportunity.
“Blount County has never really been involved in anything other than infrastructural improvement,” he said. “We haven’t done a trail or anything like this before.”
Notes from the meeting designate in the project master plan Blount’s section as “phase 2” of a 13.7-mile southernmost stretch called the “Maryville-to-Townsend Greenway.”
In total, the full project from Knoxville to Townsend will be more than 40 miles, but the final four phases in Blount are coming at a high cost, with a total estimated price tag of $24,460,000.
With high costs and the need for careful coordination, greenway construction is slow in coming. Hancock said the county was not able to afford its $2,510,000 project yet, but currently is in the environmental phase of assessment.
The county also has applied for a grant to help fund the work, Ellen Zavisca, principal planner with Knoxville TPO, said in an interview.
In contrast, Maryville Public Services Director Angie Luckie told meeting attendees Maryville is closer to construction. The plan is to run the trail through the city center and then along U.S. Highway 321 to the city limits, with construction starting in October.
Luckie also said funds for Maryville’s portion have been obligated but not “programmed.”
“The money is in the bank; we just haven’t taken any out to work on it,” she explained, adding though the total cost of the project was around $2.8 million, the city will split the cost with the state so that the city will only have to pay 20%.
Maryville’s biggest hurdle in the project has been working with local railroad owners to get property at a reasonable cost. Current quotes for abandoned railroad land sit at $3.5 million, Luckie said.
Alcoa’s portion of the project is a mixed bag as it includes trails in the city’s land and in Tennessee Department of Transportation right of ways.
“I’m happy to report to those of you who don’t know,” Alcoa Planner Jeremy Pearson told the room, “the trial is part of the Phase IV project for Alcoa Highway improvements.”
The state will complete its portion of the trail on the western side of the right of way along the highway, north from the county limits at Little River to Singleton Station Road.
After that, Alcoa is looking at a number of options to get the greenway to a network of trails near Clayton Homes. Pearson said both routes along Singleton Station or Pellissippi Parkway are under consideration.
From the Clayton Homes greenway, the Pistol Creek Phase IV greenway project will wind down to Meadowood Apartments. Construction is set to start on this 2-mile section June 1.
Carol Evans, executive director of the Legacy Parks Foundation, and Zavisca told the assembled city and county leaders the upside to the work and money spent are enormous.
“Over the first 10 years of the project, its anticipated economic impact is $65 million,” the master plan reads.
“If you begin to look across a lot of different research, the National Association of Realtors knows that you find that for homeowners, greenways and trails are their second most-requested amenity,” Evans said.
She added the community’s health could be greatly affected by the project. Presentation notes showed Tennessee fourth in the nation for highest rate of obesity and 48th in overall health.
“Physical activity and close access to recreational amenities has a direct correlation with community health,” Evans said, suggesting savings from increased health rates could save nearly $13 million a year in medical costs and productivity.
Evans also mentioned the increased possibilities to take advantage of tourism opportunities in East Tennessee. Her presentation showed Tennessee’s tourism industry garnered $18 billion a year and that $8.2 billion of that was outdoor recreation.
Zavisca complemented Evans’ financial impact vision with an actual vision, showing images of proposed bridges, archways, paths and right of way plans.
Knox County will see that vision become reality sooner than most other portions of the project as it is fully funded and planned, though most of it is along Alcoa Highway and will be completed by TDOT, Zavisca said.
Part of helping each portion of the greenway see the light of day is promotion and communication, Zavisca said.
“We really wanted to make sure elected officials and the business community knew about the plans and knew all the benefits and the progress,” she said.
She said an updated vision map is now on the KnoxBlountTrail.org site, where that county hosts all of its information about the project.
With every section now planned and a good portion of the trail funded, officials talked about seeing a map with dots on it turn into a world-class trail.
“Since last year, there’s been a lot of progress,” Evans said. “Maryville and Alcoa were actively working on projects before and now with Blount County taking a section, you have all three municipalities tackling their part. Really you can say everything from Knoxville to Maryville, it’s planned.”