The National Park Service (NPS) certified the first “walkable” section of the trail in Sullivan County last September.
It’s called the “Choates Ford Walking Trail.” It begins at the swinging foot bridge that crosses the Holston River in Bluff City, winds through town, and ends at Bluff City Middle School.
The just-completed master plan maps out extensions from both ends of that section of the trail — one heading northeast out of town toward Virginia, the other due south toward Carter County and ultimately toward North Carolina.
The Overmountain Victory Trail marks the route taken in Revolutionary War days from Abingdon, Va., to Kings Mountain, N.C., by a group of patriots credited with turning the tide in favor of the United States.
The master plan’s proposed routes for the new sections in Sullivan County are based on advice received from the NPS, County Planning Director Ambre Torbett said.
She presented the master plan to the Bristol Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) last week.
The trail’s entire path through Sullivan County falls within the MPO’s planning boundary, Torbett said.
The MPO endorsed the plan and pledged support for the county in grant-seeking efforts.
Funding for the trail can come from several sources, including multiple grants at both the state and federal level, as well as from private foundations, Torbett said.
An example is an NPS grant sponsored by Coca-Cola’s “Active Park’s” program, which could funnel $25,000 to Sullivan County for beautification efforts along the Choates Ford Walking Trail in Bluff City.
“We’ve already submitted an application for it,” Torbett said. “Of course, it’s a huge competition for it, nationwide.”
The Choates Ford Walking Trail is considered “Phase One” of the Overmountain Victory Trail in Sullivan County.
The two sections proposed for development under the new master plan:
•“Phase Two” would be called “Patriots Trail,” and would lead from the river at Bluff City, up Pleasant Grove Road to Sullivan East High School — home of “the Patriots.” “That was just a no-brainer,” Torbett said.
•“Phase Three” isn’t named yet, but would follow Carter Street — which becomes the Old Elizabethton Highway — from Bluff City Middle School. “That’s the exact route of the Overmountain Victory Trail,” Torbett said. “It would be more enjoyable to go down to the creekside. The details will have to be worked out based on recreation easements and agreements with property owners. If that doesn’t work out, then we just go down the (highway) right of way.”
For the immediate future, securing grant funds for Phase Two, the Patriots Trail, will be the focus of the county’s efforts, with a goal of getting that portion of the trail constructed within three to five years.
There’s a lot more of the trail to be planned and developed in the county in the future, Torbett said — to the Washington County, Va., line and to Sycamore Shoals in Carter County.
The trail will be open to horseback riders, non-motorized bikes, and pedestrians.
“It’s not just for walking,” Torbett said.
Torbett said she hopes to apply for the next round of grants offered by NPS.
Some background on the Overmountain Victory Trail:
•The patriots set off from Abingdon, Va., on their way to Elkin, N.C., to fight British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina.
•The route they traveled is recognized as the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
•They passed through what is now Bluff City — but was once known as Choates Ford — on Sept. 24, 1780.
•In all, 22 miles of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail — which stretches 330 miles across parts of Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina — pass through Sullivan County.
•The Overmountain Victory Trail is part of the National Trails System administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina; local governments along the trail’s routes; and historical societies and citizens groups.
•Congress designated it a historic national trail in 1980 and two years later signed off on the NPS’ determination of the primary route taken by the patriots in 1780.
•To be certified as part of the trail, walkways must be within one-half mile of either side of that route.
•Out of the 330 miles total, about 70 miles of developed trails are accessible for people to walk.
•Already certified portions exist in Washington County, Va., and Carter County.
•A “Commemorative Motor Route” allows history buffs to drive the trail’s routes using state highways, and in many areas it actually follows the original 1780 route.
•This year the NPS introduced a brochure that for the first time gives the public a map of the total trail in all four states.
•Sullivan County received $16,500 in federal grant money last year for development of a greenway master plan for development of a walkable trail in Sullivan County.
For more information, visit www.ovta.org, www.nps.gov/ovvi or www.nps.gov/kimo.