KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Kingsport leaders hope a key piece of land near downtown will be the site of trails for hiking, biking, and enjoying views of the city. The development is now possible due to a land trade between the city and Domtar.
When Domtar agreed to transform its Kingsport mill into a recycled linerboard plant, there was also a land exchange agreement. The city is trading Cloud Park and getting Cement Hill in exchange.
The 40 acre Cement Hill property is located behind Kingsport’s train station. It sits next to the 112 acre Brickyard Park property. City Manager Chris McCartt says both pieces of land provide a major development opportunity for Kingsport.
“[The land] really in a lot of ways has been off-limits other than the industrial use that it historically has been known for. To be able to open that back up for the public is pretty special and something we’re excited about,” McCartt said.
The terrain and restricted areas with buried cement kiln dust would make it difficult, and even impossible to build on Cement Hill, according to McCartt. So the city plans to create a passive park.
“Really what we’ve kind of stepped back and looked at is, how do we bring about hiking trails, how do we bring about biking trails up here? Can we establish some observation decks so that you can take advantage of these incredible views of our city?” McCartt said.
Kingsport leaders still plan to turn the neighboring Brickyard property into a residential area with 126 homes, green space for festivals and concerts, and a bike pump track.
“The housing component will be one of the first things that rolls out,” McCartt said. “We’ll see that hopefully sometime late fall, early winter. We’ll be sending out requests for proposals on that.”
The Scott Adams Memorial Skate Park will also be relocated to Brickyard Park from its current location at Cloud Park. With Domtar taking over the Cloud Park land, the company agreed to pay $500,000 towards the new skate park.
Kingsport recently requested public input on the new skate park design. Construction could begin this spring.
“In our conversations with Domtar, on their schedule, we looked to be about a year away from them needing get in and shut down Cloud Park and Scott Adams Skate Park. We are aggressively moving down a path to try to have the new skate park open before the old one closes,” McCartt said.
The park development in the backyard of downtown is exciting for Reedy Creek Bicycles owner Anthony Williams. He said his shop could hold events and possibly offer rentals for the new trail system. Williams is part of an advisory committee helping map out miles of trail designs to present to the BMA.
“We would like to see something that’s very beginner-friendly, something that’s fairly smooth, that would be fun to ride for any level rider,” Williams said. “And then hopefully there will be also a perimeter trail that could go around the whole park or that whole area over there.”
McCartt said they’ll know more on cost projections and project timelines by spring. The development of the Cement Hill park area would be city-funded.
“Hiking and biking trails, while there’s some upfront cost, some maintenance, that’s in some ways a minor expense. When you start looking at parking lots at the base of the hill, adding restrooms at different locations at the base of the hill, those are the things that will be expensive,” he said. “We’ll manage that through our capital budget in future years.”
The city still plans to build a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to access Brickyard Park from downtown. That project is estimated to cost $3 million. Kingsport is applying for a grant to help fund most of it.
Between Domtar’s repurposing construction, Brickyard Park, Cement Hill, and Main Street redevelopment – McCartt says there will be public and private projects in the works downtown in 2021. Domtar’s construction alone is expected to have an economic impact of $28 million per year.
“Over the next several years, activity on this site will be multiple projects running parallel to each other, a lot of exciting things happening,” said McCartt.