Gazing up at Tannery Knobs from the downtown Johnson City lowlands, a now-visible rugged access road stretches up the mountainside — a sign of work occurring at the future Johnson City mountain bike park site.
“You can see it from Cardinal Park. (The access road) looks like a really big, ugly cut through the hillside and really that's just part of how it's all going to happen,” Abraham McIntyre, chairman of the Tannery Knobs Bike Park task force, said.
“Of course, it looks ugly right now ’cause it's just dirt, but it will be sodded, and Summers-Taylor is going to plant some saplings on it. Here pretty soon, people won't even notice it's there. Again, it's kind of the cost of doing business. You got to make a mess before you can make it look good.”
In actuality, most of the current construction ongoing at Tannery Knobs isn’t even directly related to the mountain bike park: it happens to be a city-contracted job to remove a 3.125 million gallon water reservoir tank.
During last week’s meeting, the City Commission approved a payment of $126,136 to construction contractor Summers-Taylor, Inc. for the tank’s removal.
Coincidentally, Grant Summers, president of the contracted construction company, is a major advocate for the Tannery Knobs Bike Park and plans to donate land he owns atop Tannery Knobs to the City of Johnson City to complete the bike park.
On Wednesday, Summers said that roughly 45 acres of land, located on the upper section of Tannery Knobs, would be donated “relatively soon,” once more of the park’s design is finalized.
“We've gotten the design, and we think it’s certainly a design that works. It's 5.5 miles of trails up there. We’re just trying to figure out which (features) to do first,” Summers said.
Summers offered to donate the land as long as the city committed at least $300,000 toward the bike park, which city officials have already set aside in this year’s budget.
Summers also owns about 23 acres on the lower section of the mountainside, near Market Street, which isn’t part of the donation.
While supportive of the project, City Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin told the Johnson City Press last week that he was a little concerned the land hasn’t been transferred yet.
“The fact Mr. Summers was willing to donate property to allow us to do this at a very affordable cost makes it a project that makes ultimate sense,” Van Brocklin said.
“(I'm a) little concerned the property hasn't been transferred yet. I think it's slowing the project down a little bit. I would encourage Mr. Summers to make that donation final. Of course, I'd like to have an opportunity to see what the ultimate plans will flesh out to be.”
Before the donation is finalized, Summers said he is making sure the property he gives away will encompass all of the bike park’s first phase.
“It's not so much a negotiation, cause we're just giving it away, but we're just trying to make sure the timing of the property transfer is the best for the project. That's all it is,” Summers said.
“It doesn't hurt us to wait a little bit. So we thought well, yeah, let's make sure we know exactly where we want those property boundaries to be for the overall success for the project.”
Trail Solutions, the company hired to design the park, has already submitted its proposal to the task force, and Summers hopes to incorporate plenty of beginner-, intermediate- and expert-level features and trails into the initial construction phase.
Summers did say the bike park would evolve over time, adding elements as more funding was raised by the task force.
“Obviously, not all of the trails will be built at once. It’s always intended to be a process,” Summers said. “We will try to get done as much as we can in the first phase and then kind of add things over time.”
Fundraising for the project hasn’t begun, but Summers said it will once the task force has a complete design and visuals to show donors. Summers said the target fundraising goal will be around $100,000.
McIntyre said some of the dirt currently being moved during the water tank removal is being left at the site to be used in the bike park’s development.
“We’re pretty much right on track where we wanted to be. Of course, we always want it to be faster,” McIntyre said.
“We’re still hoping to break ground (on the bike park), if everything goes as planned, in August. (That) is pretty much what we said to begin with (and) have some trails open by mid-fall.”
Once the land is transferred, Van Brocklin said the City Commission will have to vote to accept the land and vote to apply the committed $300,000 to actual construction.
Email Zach Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.