KINGSPORT — The rain stayed away just long enough on Friday for city and state officials to cut the ribbon on the newest section of the Kingsport Greenbelt.
Mayor John Clark proclaimed at the beginning of a press conference Friday morning that the Rotherwood Greenbelt extension was a result of the teamwork that exists in Kingsport.
“That’s what makes things happen,” Clark said before a small crowd of city staff, state officials and members of the media. “We not only want to have a trail. We want to have the best trail in the region.”
The newest section of the Kingsport Greenbelt to which Clark was referring is the Rotherwood extension — a 1,200-foot-long path with wooden boardwalks built underneath the two Rotherwood bridges on Netherland Inn Road. The Greenbelt loops up the banks on both sides of the Holston River and extends to Rotherwood Drive.
Workers recently put the finishing touches on the expansion, a project that dates back more than five years. Kingsport received a $652,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation for the extension. Three change orders to the project bumped the total cost of the extension up to $713,000 with Kingsport covering the difference.
A. Toks Omishakin, a deputy commissioner at TDOT, was on hand for the ribbon cutting and noted that while his agency is mostly about building roads, it was nice to be at an event highlighting a walking trail.
“It’s about building a more livable community for everyone who lives here and comes through here,” Omishakin said.
The Kingsport Greenbelt is a nine-mile walking and biking trail that stretches from one end of town to the other, connecting to neighborhoods, parks, schools, the downtown area and many businesses along the way.
It was not built overnight, and though it might seem the trail was constructed sporadically over the years, the history behind the path involved countless hours of planning, with the city adding sections at opportune times and building on the momentum of prior additions.
City Manager Jeff Fleming said on Friday a project like the Greenbelt takes years of sustained effort, funding and partnerships to become a reality.
“We build physical structures like the Greenbelt, but the way it impacts lives and people is what truly matters,” Fleming said.