Roane County was 1 of the 5 Pilot Communities chosen in 2019 to help launch a new program created by the University of Tennessee’s School of Landscape Architecture, called the Tennessee Riverline 652. This program is “a vision for North America’s next great regional trail system” – think Appalachian Trail on water. The trail is the 652 miles of water known as the Tennessee River, running from Knoxville, TN to Paducah, KY.
Roane County is very blessed to be on the Tennessee River that makes up the 39,000-acre Watts Bar Lake surrounding our county. But it also divides our communities. This program has brought us closer together as we now collaborate more to enhance and protect our rivers. And not just the Tennessee – but also the Clinch and the Emory Rivers. Harriman, Kingston and Rockwood sit along each of these rivers, providing some great and diverse recreation – not to mention beautiful scenery. Over the years, we have taken that for granted and haven’t focused on how valuable a resource it is for our economy. Leave it to a program to help our county and its communities begin investing and working together to build upon our primary attraction and be a valued stakeholder in the river system.
So, when the first two kayakers beginning the 652-mile trek of the Tennessee Riverline (that we are aware of) stops in Kingston, we of course, rolled out the red carpet. Or at least helped them 1) get their gear stored securely thanks to Sonny & Chase, Kingston Parks & Rec, 2) get them settled into a local motel, 3) took them to meet Kingston City Manager David Bolling (also an avid paddler), 4) took them to dinner and 5) gave them TRL swag, of course.
Meeting up with them at the Smokehouse Restaurant was what I love about my job as the Roane Alliance President which oversees the Roane County Visitors Bureau and works to promote our county and its assets. Along with County Executive Ron Woody and UT Professor Brad Collett (who drove from Knoxville), and my husband Eddie, we shared and heard stories over dinner about life on the water from Minnesota to the Mississippi to the first miles of the Tennessee Riverline.
I enjoyed meeting both Jeff and his cousin Jon and look forward to following their journey along the 652 (from my couch) through Jeff Wunrow’s blog. Or if you are out on the Tennessee River look for Li’l Pug on the kayak and be sure and waive. Oh and I forgot to mention another thing Roane County did – #6) planned a sendoff for the next morning with our local newspaper reporter Hugh (also an avid paddler).
Here’s my challenge to the other communities. Roane has a mutual friend in Paducah (she is actually from Roane and was instrumental in Paducah being one of the 5 Pilot Communities also) so I have no doubt she may try to show us up, but I think Roane County and Kingston, TN set the bar pretty high for the rest of the communities Jeff and Jon will be visiting on their journey. So I challenge them all to try!