Kingsport has received a $120,000 Recreation Trails Program grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Transportation. The grant calls for a $30,000 match from the city of Kingsport.
Kitty Frazier, parks and recreation director, said the money will be used to create a closed loop trail branching off from the main trunk line of the Greenbelt behind East Stone Commons. The trail will loop around behind the old YMCA property on Indian Trail Drive, where a new Marquee Cinemas theater is slated to be built.
Frazier said the boardwalk-style trail would be 1,500 to 2,000 feet in distance and encircle approximately 10 acres of wetlands that had been donated to the city by the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA.
Kingsport has informally dubbed the looping trail as the Buffalo Grassland area, named for an area that historically could have been grassland area for buffaloes.
“This will allow us to meander a boardwalk trail through the wetlands and focus on an interpretive area, for birdwatching or a leisurely stroll,” Frazier said. “People will be able to enjoy and see a different aspect of the Greenbelt and I think people will enjoy it.
Portions of the proposed trail will likely be paved, with a majority of the trail being boardwalk in nature, similar to the nearby wooden bridge on the existing Greenbelt. Frazier said though the trail goes through a wetlands area, the city will design and build a trail in a manner very protective of the wetlands.
“Another thing we’re hoping to do during the project is to create a spur that would allow us to put an alternate route around the existing boardwalk (wooden bridge),” Frazier said. The boardwalk was originally built for walkers, but space can get tight when multiple people and bicycles attempt to pass on the narrow bridge.
Frazier said Kingsport may be able to use some of the grant funds for this alternate spur, but she won’t know until the final design and construction costs for the looping trail are known. Kingsport hopes to receive a contract for the grant within the next six months, then put the project out to bid.
Frazier said she anticipates construction taking place within this calendar year.