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Sevierville Receives Report on Pigeon River Blueway Opportunities

Posted 02-14-20.

On January 24, 2020 the City of Sevierville hosted a meeting to gauge interest and identify the potential partners in development of a blueway system along the rivers in Sevierville. Jane Polansky (TDEC) presented an overview of how to develop a water trail and Alison Bullock (NPS) facilitated discussion regarding a blueway on the Little Pigeon River that the City is exploring.

The National Park Service has provided the City with a summary report of this public meeting which is presented below.

 

The City will be forming a Blueway Planning Committee consisting of City and State officials, including representatives from TVA, Army Corp of Engineers, private property owners and other interested parties to meet and begin to determine a strategy to move forward.

A blueway program was included in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the City Department of Parks and Recreation will be responsible for coordinating the Blueway Planning Committee. If you are interested in participating in this effort, please contact Bob Parker-Director of Parks and Recreation at 453-5441.

Highlights from NPS 01-24-20 Public Meeting Report:

Some Identified Issues:
There are three (3) Low head dams in the Sevierville area that are a concern and must be addressed in order to move forward.
Water Quality was identified as a concern. The State recently delisted the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River from the 303d list. Park road upstream. Consider establishing a Watershed organization or paddle group to help with cleanup and to increase awareness of water quality in this area.

Potential Access Points:
PHASE I
• Access at City Park was identified as a priority put-in for Phase I.
• The City is going to explore other access towards the French Broad River area looking at both public and private property to serve as a take-out point downstream, which would provide a longer distance from City Park and better flows below the confluence.
• Hardin Lane Priority Take-Out would be approximately 1 mile below City Park. While not an ideal length of trip, it would at least provide multiple access points moving forward.
PHASE 2
• Access at Robert Henderson Road
• Walter State Community Access
• This section will require removal or modification of the dam near the Sevier County High school to safely promote as a blueway.

Opportunities:
• Plan boating days – need to get out on the water to better understand the river and how it flows, issues, hazards.
• Need volunteers to do water quality sampling
• Keep the City Beautiful activities could include river cleanup.
• USGS Gauges – need to get together records of 5-year flow data
• Signage – a logo has been established. Need to develop a full plan on how to sign from highway to the put-in sites, including messaging on river at points where bridges or portages are needed.
• Outfitter Rental Operations/Concession. Including Knoxville REI
• Need to better engage the paddlers/anglers in the area. Perhaps reach out to TSRA, Chota and other paddling groups to see if any live in the Sevier County area. Roane County is developing a local paddling group to establish a culture of outdoor recreation in their community.
• Also need to include any outdoor retailers.
• River miles have already been established for the river on USGS Topo Maps.
• Clean Stream Grant – TWRA
• TWRA also has a program to support riparian areas with tree planting.
• US Army Corps of Engineers has 50/50 cost sharing funds available for Ecosystem Dam Removal, flood control and streambank stabilization projects.
• Organize River Cleanups – TWRA has grant funding of $500-$1000 available for gear/equipment to clean up the river
• Other potential funding sources: LPRF, LWCF, RTP, Local Utility companies, REI outfitter grants, TWRA, TVA Stewardship funds for projects, volunteer labor, and donation of materials from hardware stores.
• ADA accessibility needs to be addressed and access provided to the launch sites, including parking areas. There are many businesses providing ADA docks/launch platforms that are quite expensive, but I don’t recommend them in this environment with flashy water flows after rainfall.
• Permits are required from TVA (below the confluence), US Army Corps of Engineers, TDEC aquatic resource alteration permits.
• Safety messaging is a significant part of all water trail projects. Example signage is provided. Consider providing trip planning itineraries for paddlers online with information to help them know what to expect. This would include information on desired water levels for an enjoyable trip.