MGT, Welcome Center: Finish Line in Sight!

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“The big news is the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance received $9.2 million from the state of Tennessee last year to complete the trail,” Patrick Dean, MGTA Executive Director, told members and guests at the March 3 Sewanee Civic Association meeting. Dean projected a completion date of 2028. Equally exciting, SCA President Kiki Beavers announced bike racks and benches were in place at the MGT Welcome and Heritage Center and the information kiosks would be on site by the end of March. When complete, the Center located on the former Hair Depot lot will feature historic displays and have an ADA compliant restroom, the only public restroom in Sewanee. The SCA hopes for a full opening in 2025. Both projects face hurdles, but the finish line is in sight.

The SCA sponsored Sewanee Community Chest has contributed over $10,000 to the trail, Dean said. This year’s donation will go toward maintenance of the original two-mile section, now More than 20 years old. When complete, the trail will span 38-40 miles from Cowan to Palmer. A connector from the South Cumberland Visitor Center to the trail is under construction. The next three sections to be built will be along Dubose Street in Monteagle, a connector to the Fiery Gizzard Trail in Tracy City, and the downtown Sewanee section from Sewanee Market to Sherwood Road. The MGTA has two more properties still to acquire between Sewanee and Cowan. The Tennessee Department of Transportation will incorporate the trail in the new bridge crossing 1-24, expected to be completed in the next 24-36 months. The bridge will have 13-foot-wide multimodal path. “Safe, flat recreational resources for people with wheelchairs or baby strollers are really limited,” Dean said, pointing out the entire trail will be multimodal accessible. Participants can register for the March 30 10th annual MGT race at the MGTA website or Tower Bank.

“We’re really excited to be part of the Visitor and Heritage Center project along with the SCA, University, and Sewanee Business Alliance,” Dean said, praising the SCA for spearheading the project. Beavers estimated the total cost, including refurbishing the interior, ADA restroom, and an exterior water-bottle filling station, at $128,000. The University class of ’73 has earmarked the Center as their 50th anniversary fundraiser and hopes to contribute $100,000. For the interior work to commence, the MOU with the University stipulates the SCA must demonstrate having the funds both to complete the project and for operation and maintenance expenses once the Center opens.

The anticipated $20,000 annual operation cost would include staffing the Center during set hours and daily cleaning of the restrooms, as well as general maintenance. Beavers said the SCA will reach out to three community partners to share in the expense, leaving the SCA to cover $5,000 annually in operating costs. Herein lies the challenge. Treasurer, Hus Ahmad said, due to inflation even without the Center expenses, the SCA 2025 budget shows nearly a $1,000 dollar shortfall, with the $10 annual dues the only revenue source. Dues have not increased in over 10 years. “If dues had kept up with inflation, they would already be $20,” Ahmad insisted. He recommended dues increase to $20-$25 to cover the shortfall. An increase to $12 would cover the 10 percent increase in expenses due to inflation, but not the additional $5,000 for the Center upkeep. Dean will appeal to the MGTA to help share the burden of the cost. A member commented a $24 annual dues increase would be only $2 per month. Another member pointed out SCA membership included a subscription to the listserv Sewanee Classifieds as a “bonus.” Another suggested the SCA encourage leaseholders to join the SCA, since they would benefit from the Center as well as the other projects the SCA hosts.

This year marks the SCA’s 115th anniversary. Beavers reported the Community Chest was just $7,000 from the $120,000 goal, the largest goal ever. Sewanee Elementary School, the largest recipient of Community Chest funds, earned an A+ scorecard in the recent state evaluation. Other fund recipients include senior-citizen programs, Housing Sewanee and animal resources.

Looking to the future, the SCA will partner with the Community Action Committee to host a Nonfood Supply Drive April 8-12. A School Supply Drive is scheduled for August.

At the May 4 meeting the SCA will elect board members and present the 41st annual Community Service Awards. Send nominations to P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375 or <>. Deadline is March 15.

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