ROGERSVILLE — Volunteer High School cross country coach Jim Ailshie’s attempt to drum up support for holding cross country meets at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park hasn’t convinced the powers that be.
In February, Ailshie presented a request to the Phipps Bend Joint Venture Committee asking to be allowed to hold a couple of meets at Phipps Bend next fall, with the start finish line and staging to be located near the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus.
The plan would be similar to 2016, when two meets were held there. Competitors would race along a route located within the floodplain, which can’t be developed.
Ailshie said he hoped that the proposed meets would become regular events and shine a positive light on local athletes and the community as a whole.
However, the request was denied by the Joint Venture Committee, which is chaired by Larry Elkins.
Earlier this month, Ailshie appeared at the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting seeking help changing the Joint Venture Committee’s mind. The BMA voted unanimously to send a letter to the committee voicing support for Ailshie’s cross country meets.
On Thursday, however, Elkins, who also chairs the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board, told the IDB that the Joint Venture Committee hasn’t changed its opinion about the coach’s request.
“We just don’t feel that is the proper venue for hosting track and field events,” Elkins said. “One of the reasons we gave that day (when Ailshie was initially denied) was we’ve been working on a trucking school for the TCAT center. In fact, that very morning we were announcing that is ongoing and should be up and running, hopefully for the spring and summer of this year.”
Elkins noted that runners are welcome to practice there in the wetland area and on the roads, but he and other members of the Joint Venture Committee don’t believe its an appropriate place for meets.
“With the amount of trucking there, it just seem to be the right action to take at this time,” Elkins told the IDB. “We encourage anybody who wants to ride horses, run, walk nature trails. We were down there the other day and someone was taking photographs. It’s a beautiful area, and we welcome them to run to their heart’s desire.”
He added, “We just don’t want to set up any formal venue, nor do we want to transfer ownership or lease any of the property. I don’t think that’s the purpose the TVA set up when they established this park along with the Hawkins County Industrial Board and Kingsport Industrial Board. It doesn’t meet the guidelines.”