The Mountain Goat Trail Needs You!
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Upon completion, the historic Mountain Goat Trail will stretch 40 miles from Cowan to Palmer following the path of the railroad line constructed to carry coal off the mountain. A nonprofit effort from the beginning, the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance picked up the mission initially taken on by Ian Prunty as an Earth Day project while a student at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, to turn a bramble and deadfall choked railbed into an 8 foot wide, paved, multi-modal path for walkers, joggers, and nonmotorized wheeled conveyance from bicycles to baby carriages. [See Messenger, Jan. 28, 2011]. With 10 miles now completed, an anonymous donor has stepped up to help get the remaining 30 miles shovel-ready for pavement, pledging $150,000 of the $300,000 needed if smaller donors will match the gift with another $150,000.
What is shovel-ready and why does it matter? “A lot of the grants we apply for don’t pay for preliminary things,” said MGTA Executive Director Patrick Dean. “They [grantors like TDEC and TDOT] want you to arrive with the property in hand. They want to know exactly what the property boundaries are. They don’t fund preliminary engineering drawings and plans for how the trail is to be built. Right of way and other legal work needs to be done…getting title to the property or an easement for the property and having surveys done so boundaries are explicit.”
Dean pointed to two partially shovel-ready sections. On the Cowan side, the University has done preliminary grading work on a three-mile section from Sherwood Road to the Hawkins Cove State Natural Area involving three private landowners, all “willing” according to Dean, although several legal documents still needs to be executed. The other partially shovel ready section is at the other end of the route. A few years ago, the MGTA brokered the sale of the railbed from CSX Railroad to Grundy County to extend the trail from where it now ends in Tracy City to its final destination in Palmer. With survey and title work beginning on the 17-mile section, the MGTA recently assisted Tracy City in applying for a grant to pave the first mile and half of the last leg.
The goal of making the entire uncompleted 30 miles of trail shovel ready for pavement is within reach. All that is needed is for trail lovers and trail project supporters to step forward and make a donation so the MGTA can take advantage of the generous $150,000 matching donation offer. To contribute, visit <https://www.mountaingoattrail....;. Or send a check marked #Shovel Ready to MGTA, P.O. Box 968, Monteagle, TN 37356.
What else can Mountain Goat Trail supporters do to help? “Enjoy the trail, tell your friends and family about it, and get people out there using the trail,” Dean said. MGTA’s three trail-use counters log trail traffic. “When we apply for grants, it’s very helpful to be able to say, ‘We had 2,000 users a month.’” Better still, do both: use the trail and make a donation. Both gifts will keep on giving.