JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Two signature Johnson City phenomena — bikes and dogs — could soon share a long-vacant 5 acres at the corner of State of Franklin Road and Legion Street.
City commissioners will consider Thursday night allowing the so-called “burley pad” property to be used for a partially grant-funded dog park on one section and a bike park/pump track adjacent to it.
“Having everything right here will be a great outdoor hub,” said Lindsey Jones of Connect Downtown, which led application for the Boyd Foundation “Dog Park Dash” grant in mid-2021. “Bring your dogs, bring your kids to play on the bike track, go for a run or a walk on the Tweetsie Trail. It’s a great central location to our merchants, our residents and visitors.”
Standing at the site just east of Interstate 26 and bounded by State of Franklin Road and Legion Street, Jones scanned the space where 1.5 acres will potentially become home to the city’s first free, non-membership dog park by sometime next year.
Connect Downtown, which is affiliated with the Johnson City Development Authority, applied for $25,000 in April 2021, but the community response was so great that the Boyd Foundation gave the city its $100,000 grand prize. A local philanthropist has committed another $100,000, and work can begin once the city commission green lights use of the property.
“We have until 2024 to open up the doors; however, we hope to open up before that,” Jones said, adding that barring any unforeseen circumstances the park could be shaping up for use by early to mid-2023. Students from East Tennessee State University completed design work for the park.
The dogs and owners will enjoy their space right next to a $300,000 bike “pump track” that the Johnson City noon Rotary Club hopes to raise the funds for by the end of this year. With that planned space behind him — it’s closer to Legion Street and the swimming pool, while the dog space is closer to the interstate — Johnson City Noon Rotary Club President Adam Haselsteiner said the club has wanted to be involved in a pump track project for quite a while.
“We just think it’s going to be very beneficial to the community, add to the outdoor activities, the tourism that we’re trying to promote in the area to go along with Tannery Knobs and right in between there and the Tweetsie Trail – it’s just a perfect little melting pot here for biking,” Haselsteiner said.
He said pump tracks serve several purposes in an overall bike-friendly environment, serving as a good workout for experienced bikers and a big benefit for skill building.
“This particular park is going to just basically serve to train younger kids to where then they can move on to the Tannery Knobs, Buffalo Mountain, ETSU bike parks that are a little bit more intense, and kind of hone their skills. Get the kids into these outdoor activities that we all love.”
Haselsteiner thinks the reuse of the 5-acre plot is perfect for Johnson City.
“It promotes everything we love about the town and it uses this space that’s sat empty for however many years.”
City leaders would like to have the funds ready to go by the first of the year.
“They said they will begin construction as soon as we get the funding, so our goal is to have it all ready to go by the end of the year and then maybe have this bike park ready by next summer,” Haselsteiner said.
Jones, who agreed that the two uses will be great together, trotted out a statistic that supports the need for the park, saying more than 53% of residents within a five-mile radius of the proposed park have pets. Many, she said, live in downtown-area apartments where park space is abundant, but not specifically geared to dogs.
“Those dogs need a place to run leash-free and enjoy a safe environment other than just walking around in small grass patches throughout our community.”
Pilar Harding couldn’t agree more. The business owner recently moved to downtown from Boone, N.C. and lives above her business on East Main Street with her dog Peanut. She’s right across from Majestic Commons, a small green space that cuts from Main to Market street between two buildings and gets a lot of use.
“It’s a little challenging,” she said. “There’s not many green places to walk him.”
Harding was thrilled to learn of the project.
“It’ll be nice to have a place where he can go to have a little more freedom,” she said. “I’ve seen my neighbors, and they come and walk them here. Sometimes it looks like a dog park here. There’s quite a bit of doggies, especially in the morning.”
With Johnson City receiving national attention for its real estate market and growth, Jones said the new amenities should help the city’s core remain an attractive spot for people who are migrating.
“That’s one thing that we’ve been missing here,” Harding said of the dog park. “We’ve got beautiful green spaces, we’ve got a ton of events that are happening in these green spaces, lots of dogs. Why don’t we give them a safe place to play and also continue this economic growth and invite more residents, households, people relocating to the area, starting businesses? And you can’t do that without having the appropriate amenities.”