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Trailing along the Tennessee River could be made easy, UT students hope

Knoxville WVLT-TV logo Knoxville WVLT-TV 1/23/2020 Gwendolyn Ducre
a long bridge over a body of water: Some say it would be great for the economy and environment. / WVLT © Provided by Knoxville WVLT-TV Some say it would be great for the economy and environment. / WVLT

KNOXVILLE, TENN. (WVLT) -- Options for hiking trails in East Tennessee are almost endless, expect along the Tennessee River. In 2016, UT student Journey Roth-Smith, had the idea to change that.

Roth-Smith told WVLT News she was interested in connecting and growing surrounding communities. From there, she came up with Re{connect}.

"Architecture wasn't even my field," Roth-Smith said.

Four years later, current students and professors picked up her plan and ran with it, only this time the project is called the Tennessee RiverLine.

For the first time, Caleb Brackney and his classmates unveiled their plans to hike along the river from Knoxville to Paducah, Kentucky. They presented their plans to leaders from connecting counties Wednesday evening at the Art and Architecture Building on UT's campus.

UT professor Brad Collett said it will take teamwork to launch the official project.

"One of the primary purposes of our pilot program was to gain feedback from leaders of communities and residents," Collett said.

The project would make the trip easy. Brackney pitched giving hikers shelter along the way in Bridgeport, Alabama.

"if you're kayaking 15 miles on the river, you're not going to want to walk two miles into a town, so thinking through if it's bike shared programs or ways for people to access the communities," Collett said.

He said recreational use is just half of the movement.

"It's my generations opportunity to represent those species that's been endangered or extinct," Collett said.

Saving the river, bringing people and communities together is how this got started.

"That really is what encourages me to keep going on and to continue to do this for the rest of my life," Collett said

It's how they all hope it ends.

WVLT couldn't get an answer as to an expected date when the first trail would be built, but UT officials said they're confident this will get done.

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