Saturday's National Trails Day held important meaning for the
Watershed Association of the Tellico Reservoir and the East Lakeshore Trail system.
National Park Service chose to recognize the East Lakeshore Trail as a national recreation trail,
one of just two in Tennessee with the distinction this year.
"It's very important for us,"
Larry Benson, president of WATeR, said. "Anyone who looks up in the national trails designation will
be able to see our trail on the Web."
Bob Martin, chairperson of WATeR's trails committee,
said the project started as a way to "help deter the further development and destruction of this
natural setting over here."
The trail, now 22 miles long, has come together over nine years,
built by members of WATeR, volunteers and with assistance from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which
became a trail partner.
"It takes a lot of work, there's a lot of facilities involved,"
Martin said. "We have three trail heads. In addition to that, we have probably 23 bridges on this
trail of various sizes, going from three feet to an 85-foot span.
"We have five benches at
scenic view sites and we'll be adding more of those as we go. There are boat landing areas so that
the trail can be accessed from the water as well. Numerous signs are involved," he said. "That's the
kind of planning and effort it takes, a lot of coordination."
State Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak
Ridge, was present Saturday morning to congratulate WATeR on its accomplishment.
have really worked hard on this," McNally said. "Having people add value to the state, and these do
add value, is certainly of great importance to us. Being recognized by the federal government,
that's a great honor."
The trail is the longest among all TVA trails with the designation as
a national recreation trail.
"That is very prestigious," Darrell Cuthbertson, TVA forester
for eastern regional watersheds, said. "For us, it's very nice to be able to get that designation
because, for us, it means we've developed a good, working partnership with the local stakeholders.
We're able to present something for the public to use."
TVA Eastern Regional Watersheds
Manager Rebecca Hayden said in 2011 that TVA approved a national resource plan focused on "tapping
into public involvement."
"This is a prime example of how it worked, how people saw a
resource and saw how it could be enhanced," she said. "We worked together and now we have a real
gem. This is what we should try to achieve in other places on public land."
Benson and Martin
both said volunteers and new members of WATeR are always welcome, especially as the group hopes to
reach its next goal by 2013, which is to connect the East Lakeshore Trail with another trail built
by the Tellico Reservoir Development Authority.
WATeR works on trails the first Monday,
second Tuesday and third Wednesday of every month.
"Any given day we may have as few as five
or six people working, but a lot of times we'll have 12 to 15 people working," Martin
To join WATeR, there is a commercial fee of $20 per year, which Benson said goes toward
building the trail and lakeshore clean up.
"It's been a pretty good project," Martin said.
"And, of course, it is a good partnership between the Tennessee Valley Authority and the watershed