BLUFF CITY — History just got a little easier to find down on Main Street.
The first of what’s planned to be numerous information kiosks is complete for a local portion of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. It marks what’s considered the primary public trailhead for that trail section, located along the Holston River near the swinging footbridge in Bluff City.
“Start walking, people!” Ambre Torbett said as a ribbon was cut on the kiosk Tuesday.
Torbett is Sullivan County’s planning director. Others on hand to dedicate the “Choate’s Ford Walking Trail Kiosk” included County Mayor Steve Godsey, Bluff City Mayor Tom Anderson, U.S. Job Corps Work Program Administrator Bobby Godsey, and Royce McNew, master carpenter and instructor at the Jacobs Creek Job Corps — which constructed the kiosk.
Torbett, Anderson and Godsey each praised the Job Corps’ work on the project.
The Choate’s Ford Walking Trail is the first segment to Sullivan County’s portion of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail — the route the Overmountain Men took on their military campaign to defeat the British during the Revolutionary War of 1780.
Anderson said someday the public will be able to walk or bike the whole 300-plus miles of that route.
Sullivan County’s current mile-long stretch of walkable trail, certified by the National Park Service last year, is slated for expansion — north toward Abingdon, where about three miles of walkable trail exist, and south toward Elizabethton, where about five miles of walkable trail are accessible at Sycamore Shoals.
The new kiosk is located at a public parking area on Main Street, which becomes Dry Branch Road outside of town.
“Pending additional grant funding, the trailhead parking lot will also see improvements in the near future,” Torbett said.
Those improvements could include items such as landscaping, railings down the path to the footbridge, lighting, benches, trash receptacles, a crosswalk along Main Street, and access control around the parking lot, Torbett said.
“We hope this trailhead becomes a central meeting place linking future trail segments to the north and south of the historic trail — eventually linking Sycamore Shoals to Dunns Meadow in Abingdon. This first walking trail marks the center point of the historic route within Sullivan County.”
Master planning for the trail’s entire path through Sullivan County is complete. It includes the proposed routes for two new sections that could open miles of green space to the public within the next few years.
The National Park Service certified the first “walkable” section of the trail in Sullivan County last September.
It begins at the swinging footbridge that crosses the Holston River in Bluff City, winds through town, and ends at Bluff City Middle School.
The 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, Torbett said.
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 Parks” program, which could funnel $25,000 to Sullivan County for beautification efforts along the Choate’s Ford Walking Trail in Bluff City.
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.
Earlier this year, Torbett said securing grant funds for phase two, the Patriots Trail, will be the immediate focus of the county’s efforts, with a goal of getting that portion of the trail constructed within three to five years.
Torbett said she hopes to apply for the next round of grants offered by the 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 Choate’s 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.