Tennessee RiverLine, River Communities Complete Major Planning Milestone

  • Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Tennessee RiverLine, a regional trail system, has announced the completion of Phase I of its Community Planning Initiative. This planning milestone brings six communities along the Tennessee River closer to realizing their aspirations to engage with the waterway as part of the Tennessee RiverLine’s vision, officials said. 

Officials said, "CPI is a collaborative two-year effort designed to inspire and empower participating communities to discover their own local visions for the Tennessee RiverLine.

The initiative involves inclusive outreach with community residents and leadership to facilitate progress locally and across the region toward realizing the communities’ visions."

CPI Phase I focused on local vision discovery through a public engagement program with residents and leadership, called 652 to YOU. Throughout the summer of 2022, Huntsville, Decatur and Guntersville, Al., Calvert City, Ky. and Clifton and Hardin County, Tn. each began their journey to discover how the Tennessee RiverLine may take shape in their community by hosting 652 to YOU programs. 

Programs were collaboratively planned and facilitated by volunteers from each participating community, Tennessee RiverLine staff members and students in the UT School of Landscape Architecture. Each included several days of engagement events and planning activities with residents and leaders. These events and activities were purposefully designed as venues to build shared understandings of each community’s unique relationship with the Tennessee River today, how each aspires to enhance that relationship in the future relative to the Tennessee RiverLine vision and to identify next steps toward fulfilling those aspirations. 

"Through this summer’s 652 to YOU program, we learned that while our lake is very popular with visitors and one of our largest economic drivers, many residents of our community lack the ability to access the water for paddling or boating. The program helped us understand that water can both divide and unite a community, and that we must place importance on preservation and conservation in order to protect a natural resource that is so vital to our community's economy," according to Katy Norton, president of Marshall County Tourism and Sports and member of Guntersville’s (Al.) Tennessee RiverTowns Local Leadership Team. 

“The level of engagement and pride for the river that we witnessed in each community during CPI Phase I are inspiring, as is the abundance of unique, place-based opportunities identified by participants to enhance that relationship while supporting economic development and improving quality of life in their community and across the region,” said Brad Collett, director of the Tennessee RiverLine and professor in the UT Department of Plant Sciences and School of Landscape Architecture. 

The Tennessee RiverLine has provided each community an individualized program report that summarizes input from community residents and leaders gathered during its 652 to YOU program. Each community’s report concludes with recommendations for next steps that they may take toward realizing their aspirations as a part of the Tennessee RiverLine that will carry into CPI Phase II.  

During Phase II, the Tennessee RiverLine team will continue collaborating with community leaders and residents through fall 2023 to develop a conceptual design, funding strategy and grant application materials for a single Tennessee RiverLine project identified by each participating community as an investment priority. These projects could include new riverfront parks, campsites and access points, connective trails and greenways and other related outdoor recreation infrastructure investments. Materials developed through CPI can then be used to build public support and make progress toward project implementation.

CPI is made possible by grant funding through the US Department of Agriculture Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge in qualifying rural communities, as well as through the support of 3M Decatur with funds from the 3M Foundation and the Tennessee RiverLine’s principal partners, Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Much like the UT Institute of Agriculture itself, Tennessee RiverLine brings together local, state, and federal partners for the benefit of Tennesseans, the natural resources of the state, and beyond” says University of Tennessee Senior Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice President Carrie Castille. “This historic initiative is one of the many examples where the Institute is providing regional leadership that yields benefits to communities within and beyond the state’s boundaries and to the diverse people who call them home.”

“Incredible things happen when communities come together to dream, discuss and design their futures,” said Allen Clare, vice president of River and Resources Stewardship at TVA. “As a principal partner of the Tennessee RiverLine, we congratulate this year’s participating communities and look forward to seeing the positive impacts of their efforts realized.”

“Our work with the Tennessee RiverLine will help our neighbors enjoy the Tennessee River, enhance community vibrancy and help ensure a more interconnected region. We’re honored to support this work and look forward to seeing what’s next for our area,” said Michelle Howell, site leader of 3M Decatur. “3M works to create opportunity and deliver for our people and our customers  – and that applies to building communities where we live and operate in North Alabama and the Tennessee Valley.” 

To learn more about the Tennessee RiverLine’s Community Planning Initiative, visit the Tennessee RiverLine News Page. Learn about upcoming CPI Phase II community engagement opportunities by visiting the Community Planning Initiative page here.

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