JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The long anticipated opening of the Tweetsie Trail from Johnson City to Elizabethton is coming up Saturday.
It will be open to hikers and bikers, but not to horseback riding, and that has some horse owners upset, they're asking -- why not?
They've begun an online petition to get the cities and trail organizers to change their minds. As we found out, that's not going to happen, at least for now.
Work at the Tweetsie Trail trail head has taken a frantic pace as they prepare for a grand opening. Many are enjoying the seven mile stretch from Johnson City to Elizabethton already. Signage is up and one sign has some upset, no horses. "It seems everywhere you go its anti-horse no matter what and its sad. They've been here since the beginning of time," horse owner Timothy Hopson says.
But time is what those involved with the trail want. Time for the surface of the trail to settle and time to see just how many people are going to use it. "Look at the use of trail and the people who are going to be on it and to look at pinch points on it. the width of it, how it could accommodate the kind of traffic is wanting to use the trail," City commissioner Jenny Brock said.
Once you get beyond the urban setting of Johnson City the trail opens up into the countryside, and that's where the horseback riders want to ride on what they call the rural routes. "From bridge to bridge where the bridge goes across the four lane down there to where it goes across up there in Elizabethton. In between these two bridges is considered a rural route," Hopson said.
But there's the issue of damage to the new surface that has been laid down. The city says it just needs time. "I can see their disappointment in it. We just need to get through this first phase of it to made sure that again the trail is not being damaged on an ongoing basis. That's not fair to the taxpayers and everybody who's contributed to the trail plus it would impact the use of other people on it and the second thing is safety," Commissioner Brock says.
"If it's going to settle how is it going to settle with with all the traffic, bicycles, everybody being on it. It should be allowed time to settle on its own. if they want it to settle there should be nothing on it," Hopson argues.
An issue that only time will settle.