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This past weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to run and walk on the Mountain Goat Trail in Sewanee. Did you know that this trail will eventually make it’s way all the way through Tracy City and on into Palmer, following the old railroad bed of the Mountain Goat train!
As I enjoyed a little bit of quiet time, I thought about our beautiful Grundy County. We have such a beautiful county, from the farms in Pelham, Hubbards Cove, and Tarlton Valley to the majestic views and vistas overlooking natural areas in Savage Gulf in Palmer, Stone Door in Beersheba Springs and Ravens Point in Tracy City. We can boast of peaceful waterfalls at Greeter, Savage, and Laurel and quiet trails at Fiery Gizzard.
Beauty surrounds us all and is preserved through our wonderful South Cumberland Parks System. We are blessed with the gift of “Community” which includes neighbors that love and care for each other. The people of Grundy will come together in the time of need and give you the shirt off their back. What a beautiful place to live. Do we have problems? Yes, we do, but we can all work together to find ways to improve those problems and we cannot give up!
Many of us remember when this area was prosperous. Yes, there was a time when the railroad and the coalmines were a great source of income for many families, and a source of business success in our little communities. I know that times change and things come and go, but I feel that we have a wonderful opportunity to use a small piece of this county’s history to make a notable change in the economy and revitalization of our entire county, from Monteagle to Palmer, by supporting the Mountain Goat Bike Trail initiative.
Many of you have never heard of the Mountain Goat Bike Trail initiative. I, for one, had no idea what it had to do with Grundy County. I thought it was just a Sewanee/Cowan thing. Now as it nears Monteagle, I recognize the positive impact that the completion of this trail could have on all of our small cities along the trail and beyond. From 1856 to 1985, the Mountain Goat Railroad carried coal and passengers between Palmer and Cowan in Grundy and Franklin Counties of the Cumberland Plateau.
Now, the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance is seeking to reclaim the path of the railroad. The volunteers with the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance are working with individuals, local governments and other interested groups to make this “rails to trails” initiative a reality. The Alliance hopes to turn the old railroad bed into a multiuse recreational path, offering health, recreational, and economic benefits to the area.
I did a little research on the impact that rails to trails has had in other similar communities. One site at www.railstotrails.org states: “These type trails are often seen narrowly when it comes to their benefits. People tend to focus on the recreational or environmental aspects of trails and greenways, failing to see the big picture – the total package of benefits that a trail or greenway can provide to communities including public health, economic and transportation benefits, and even the effect on community pride and identity. When seen as a whole, the evidence about the far-reaching benefits of trails and greenways is compelling, especially given the minimal public investment involved compared to other undertakings with the same community goals.
Trails and greenways create healthy recreation and transportation opportunities by providing people of all ages with attractive, safe, accessible and low- or no-cost places to cycle, walk, hike, jog or skate. Trails help people of all ages incorporate exercise into their daily routines by connecting them with places they want or need to go. Communities that encourage physical activity by making use of the linear corridors can see a significant effect on public health and wellness.
The economic effects of trails and greenways are sometimes readily apparent (as in the case of trailside businesses), and are sometimes more subtle, like when a company decides to move to a particular community because of amenities like trails. There is no question, however, that countless communities across America have experienced an economic revitalization due in whole or in part to trails and greenways. Many communities realize the economic potential of these highly desirable recreation destinations. These trails have brought job growth in construction and maintenance as well as tourism-related opportunities like lake rafting tours, bike rentals, restaurants and lodging.
A National Park Service study revealed that the economic impact involves a combination of newly created trail-related jobs and the expansion of existing businesses related to travel, equipment, clothes, food, souvenirs and maps. Such trails can increase perceived quality of life in a community, and consequently attract new businesses and have become the central focus of tourist activities in some communities and has kick-started a stagnating economy.
In the months following the opening of the Mineral Belt Trail in Leadville, Colorado, the city reported a 19 percent increase in sales tax revenues. Owners of restaurants and lodging facilities report that they are serving customers who have come into town specifically to ride the trail. The trail has helped Leadville recover from the economic blow of a mine closure in 1999.
The Mispillion River Greenway in Milford is credited with inspiring downtown reinvestment and a net gain in new businesses, with more than 250 people now working in a downtown that was nearly vacant 10 years ago. Trails increase the natural beauty of communities. They also have been shown to improve property values and make adjacent properties easier to sell.
Many community leaders have been surprised at how trails have become sources of community identity and pride. These effects are magnified when communities use trails and greenways to highlight and provide access to historic and cultural resources. Many trails and greenways themselves preserve historically significant transportation corridors. Trails also provide an opportunity to physically experience places where historical events occurred. For more than 100 years the railroad was the backbone of American travel and was integral to the development of countless communities.” (www.railstotrails.org)
Which brings me back to my experience this past weekend on the portion of old Mountain Goat Trail in Sewanee, that has been beautifully paved and is currently being used by young and old alike for recreational activities. The Tracy City Run for God group decided to go to the Mountain Goat Trail in Sewanee for their weekly run. As I was slowly running along the trail, enjoying the natural beauty of the wooded area and the peaceful presence of God, I recalled many years back when my siblings and I were visiting with my grandparents in Coalmont. While over at Sam Creighton’s store we would often hear the train coming down the track. Recognizing that wonderful sound we would all take off running to greet the smiling engineer and enjoy the bubble gum he threw to the children. Just my little memory of a very happy time, yet full of hope that other family memories can be forged by new generations of children along the old railroad bed, riding their bikes, sharing stories of times gone by.
As I drove back to Monteagle, I could see the latest advancement of the trail about to become a reality in the City of Monteagle. I am so thankful for the group of individuals that have given so much of their lives to a commitment to seeing this wonderful “Trail of Dreams” become a reality. I truly feel that the trail will be the tie that binds our county TOGETHER. It can bring revitalization to struggling businesses, improve successful businesses, generate new business opportunities and jobs, preserve history, improve quality of life through better health, and improve the overall economic landscape of Grundy County and the beautiful small towns throughout our county.