KINGSPORT - Connecting people, nature and communities with greenways and trails is the mission of the Southern Appalachian Greenways Alliance. And a newly released plan - seven years in the making - illustrates exactly how to do that.
On the bank of the Holston River in Riverfront Park, SAGA held a press conference Friday announcing the release of its regional greenways plan - a plan charting out greenways in eight counties in Tennessee and three counties in Southwest Virginia.
Roy Settle, coordinator of the Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Council, said the plan charts a course for regional connectivity via walking, hiking and biking trails among communities.
"It's a multistate effort and really sets the course in working toward regional connectivity," Settle said.
Gov. Phil Bredesen, who swung through the region on Friday, attended the press conference and congratulated all of the people who made the plan possible.
"The way things get done is to get a lot of people with a shared vision to put aside differences they might have and work toward that shared vision," Bredesen said.
The 124-page plan includes a variety of information on greenways and trails, including maps of existing trails in the region, a list of benefits - conservation, economic, health and recreation - that trails provide and a guide for implementing greenways along with funding ideas.
Dozens of actions items are listed in the plan.
•Develop trail infrastructure that is convenient throughout the community by connecting trails to neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, parks and commercial centers.
•Establish local "Safe Routes to Schools" programs in each of our communities to teach traffic safety and promote walking and bicycle activities.
•Plan communitywide activities that promote healthy living and introduce the public to new outdoor recreation facilities and sports such as National Trails Day events, health fairs at local parks, tricycle races and walks for health.
•Institute stream zone protection ordinances that protect natural vegetation along stream banks, provide stream buffers in urban settings and limit development adjacent to streams and rivers.
The plan also includes a chapter on establishing regional connectors between communities and key resources. Regional connectors include long-distance hiking, biking and equestrian trails, blueways (designated water trails), conservation corridors, historic routes, community-to-community greenway and trail connectors and bike routes.
Some of the suggestions, either new or in the works, include a trail from Gate City to Kingsport, the Mendota Trail from Bristol, Va., to Scott County, Va., the Laurel Creek Trail from Mountain City to the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Johnson City-to-Kingsport connector along Highway 36 through Boones Creek and the proposed North Fork of Holston Blueway from Weber City to Kingsport.
Settle said next up would be for SAGA and a soon-to-be-formed bistate commission work with the local communities to help carry the plan forward toward implementation.
SAGA is a nonprofit organization of community leaders and volunteers whose mission is to advocate, develop and sustain a creative and comprehensive system of trails and greenways in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.