Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Laurel Creek, Virginia Creeper trails' connection plans ongoing

While the winter weather in northeast Tennessee is not typically conducive to outside projects, it hasn't slowed down the members of the Johnson County Trails Association (JCTA) from making plans for further expansion. The organization, formed in 2001, is focused on the development of 87 miles of trails throughout the county. With these trails, JCTA members have aspired to connect the many communities throughout the county, providing a scenic setting that would allow visitors and residents alike to enjoy all the area has to offer, be they cyclists, walkers or equestrians.
JCTA has worked with both Cherokee and George Washington/Jefferson National Forest Service for the past several years toward the development of the Laurel Creek Trail, a six-mile interstate trail that will connect with the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus. Tennessee's Laurel Creek Trail, which begins at Camp Ahistadi near Laurel Bloomery, is currently in the construction stage. Plans for the construction of the Virginia portion of the trail are currently in the early planning stages.
“We have just about one year to complete the Laurel Creek project,” said JCTA member, Howard Moon. Crews have shut down due to the winter weather and they should resume work in mid-April. The organization has enlisted the advice of an engineer to help solve a structural issue where part of the trail had broken off. They are looking at several different possibilities to determine the best solution for the problem. “We have agreed with the National Forest to do some upgrades to existing trails,” said Moon. Approximately $150,000 remains in their budget that can be utilized for repairs and purchasing easements. The frugal group has administrated the grant money themselves, saving approximately 15 to 20 percent. Inmates from Northeast Correctional Complex have provided numerous man-hours in this endeavor.
According to Moon, the continuation of the Laurel Creek Trail along the 91 corridor garnered the attention of Tennessee's Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey who in turn contacted Bill Bolling, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. This has created a top down interest in the development of these trails. While plans are still underway, one of the possibilities could be the connection of the Virginia Creeper Trail in Damascus that would connect with the Laurel Creek Trail. The popular Virginia Creeper Trail begins in Abingdon, Virginia and runs to the North Carolina line. JCTA's plan envisions the connection of the Laurel Creek Trail to Laurel Bloomery and ultimately into Mountain City.
Linda Moon, JCTA member, explained a committee will need to be formed to look at the most cost-effect plan to accomplish this goal, keeping in mind alternative approaches to joining these two trails. The process is lengthy as the group will need to send out scoping letters up and down the corridor advising all of the property owners of their possible intent to connect the trails. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, studies must be completed that look at wildlife, endangered species, plant life and the culture of the area in question before further plans can be implemented.