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Porter: Rail Trail Potential Tourist Destination

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader

Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said he hopes to see the Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail become a tourist destination like similar trails in other communities.

Porter said that has been the goal of leaders since the trail was proposed in the mid-2000’s.

“I think the goal is, in the future, is to make it a real big tourist attraction,” Porter said, “where you can get on one end and ride your bike, go to the other end, and have someone pick you up and take you back to your car.”

Porter said the biggest challenge currently is pushing the 19-mile trail up the Cumberland Plateau from Algood to Monterey. He said right-of-way issues have hampered the project.

“There’s a difficult section that runs from Algood up the mountain,” Porter said. “The right-of-way for the railroad is very narrow. It goes through the rock cuts and everything, but there’s no way to stay on the railroad right-of way and do it. You would have to get over on private property, so that’s been the hold-up of doing that section.”

The Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail officially opened in 2016 with a 4.23 mile trail extending from the Cookeville Depot Museum to Algood’s Walter L. Bilbrey Memorial Park. Even with the difficulty of moving up the mountain, Porter said their are other options to expand the trail.

“We still think there’s some sections we can do,” Porter said. “We could go part of the way up the mountain, maybe to Brotherton Mountain Community Center up there. And maybe go west, to where we could go maybe toward Cane Creek Park, connecting Cane Creek Park and maybe going on to Baxter.”

Since the Rail Trail project tends to be expensive, Porter said finding grant money is necessary. He said the initial trail spur was funded with a large state grant.

“I think the idea may be to look for another one of those grants for the next spur and see what we can get,” Porter said. “It becomes very expensive to do the trail with the way we have done it. And you have to meet certain restrictions and guidelines as far as the railroad goes, and as far as the grant goes.”

Porter said one exciting proposal is to link the trail to Monterey’s Meadow Creek Park. He said he believes that is something that could be done easily.

“You have the old railroad bed from Monterey up to Meadow Creek Park,” Porter said. “The rail is not there, it’s been taken up, but the old rail bed is there with gravel and everything. It would be very easy, I think, to put a trail on top of it. I know that’s been talked about in several meetings, so that would be a possibility. That would make a very nice tourist attraction if you could have it from there all the way back down to Cookeville and possibly on down to Baxter.”

Despite wanting the trail to be a tourist destination, Porter said the trail is just as important to residents. People often use the trail for exercise and spending time with family.

“That trail gets used a lot by our local citizens,” Porter said. “They’re walking and they’re riding their bikes, so it has a health benefit to our community, also.”


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