Approval was contingent on confirmation by director of schools Steve Starnes and County Attorney Jim Phillips that all necessary liability insurance and legal issues have been addressed by the end of the month.
Last month volunteer high School’s new track coach Jim Ailshie and school board member Chris Christian scouted an area along the riverbank at Phipps Bend, after which Ailshie mapped out a proposed 5-K course.
The course has already received approval from the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board and the Phipps Bend Joint Venture Committee — which is comprised of representatives from Kingsport and Hawkins County.
The IDB is providing assistance by bush-hogging the overgrown areas of the new course, and boosters have agreed to assist with upkeep of the course.
The Tennessee College of Applied Technology (T-CAT) campus at Phipps Bend has also agreed to allow its parking lots to be used for parking, athlete staging, and for the start finish/line, assuming the meets occur on days when there are no T-CAT classes.
“Since news of this got out, Cherokee High School has made the request to use this (course) toward their IMAC (Inter-Mountain Athletic Conference) meet on Oct. 20, and Volunteer High School is advertising for a Cross Country meet Oct. 1,” Christian told the board. “I didn’t realize Cross Country is so big, but there could be five or six states represented at one of these meets. Just the exposure alone for Phipps Bend is a win/win for the county and the school system.”
Christian noted that in its 36 years of existence Volunteer has never hosted a home Cross Country meet.
Christian added, “And, the middle schools have shown interest as well because there’s a Hawkins County Middle School Cross Country meet that is getting ready to go away.”
There was some concern expressed by board member Holly Helton who said she hadn’t been presented with any information about the Phipps Bend course prior to Thursday’s meeting.
Board chairman Bob Larkins noted, however that approval was being fast-tracked due to an impending home meet date scheduled by Ailshie for Oct. 1.
“If anyone hasn’t been on that trail at Phipps Bend it’s an absolute beautiful site on the Holston River,” Larkins said. “I think it does highlight Hawkins County, and the beauty of it. I appreciate Mr. Christian and Mr. Ailshie working on this. It looks like there’s kind of a timeline, or deadline we’re on, and we probably need to act on it if we’re going to do anything.”
Starnes noted that Tennessee risk Management which provides insurance to the county has confirmed that as long as the meets are school approved events they are covered.
Phillips added that the county would have to hold Phipps Bend harmless if any situations related to legal liability developed.
The course mostly utilizes floodplain which isn’t available for industrial development.
The board voted 7-0 in favor of using Phipps Bend for cross country meets.