Dozens of Tellico Village officials and residents gathered Thursday morning at the Wellness Center for the unveiling of a newly completed project designed to enhance the Village’s trail-hiking experience.

Members of the Tellico Village Recreation Advisory Committee, Timeless Tellico Foundation and the Kahite Chain Gang presented two new informational kiosks along Butterfly Trail. Those in attendance for the presentation then participated in a group hike around the Wellness Center.

A four-sided kiosk showcases the different types of birds, animals, flowers and trails in Tellico Village. Hikers can take a picture of the trail system to act as a “mobile map.”

The second kiosk highlights the history of trail building in the Village. This project comes on the heels of the first nature kiosk in Kahite that was erected in June by the Kahite Chain Gang.

Gary Mulliner, Kahite Chain Gang warden, said the COVID-19 pandemic expedited the process.

“COVID has actually been a blessing in disguise with this because I can’t travel, so what else am I going to do?” Mulliner said. “I come out and work virtually as much as I can and love being outdoors. We have worked quite a bit to clear the ground, build the kiosks and tell our story. This has been a collaborative effort. The grunt work and the concept comes from the Kahite Chain Gang. We number somewhere between 10 and 20 and just whoever wants to show up. Simon (Bradbury, POA recreation director), the Recreation Advisory Committee and Timeless Tellico Foundation have provided the moral support and some financial help because the prices of lumber has doubled since we started our process.”

The project took less than two months to complete and cost an estimated $2,400, which was fully funded by TTF through donations. Members of the Kahite Chain Gang completed all the work.

Outsourcing the project would have cost $25,000, Simon Bradbury, Tellico Village Property Owners Association recreation director, said.

Bradbury believes the kiosks will prove beneficial for the overall hiking experience in the Village.

“We felt like it was best to do it at Kahite first and showcase what we’re doing, and then we wanted to do a second one over here at the Wellness Center,” Bradbury said. “We’ve been talking about that off and on for a couple of years when we first started doing the trails. I do feel like it will enhance their experience. We have a jewel of a resource back here with the common property that we own and have the trails on, and in there there’s all kinds of wildlife, trees and plants that are identified. You can now look at it and look for them when you go on the trails. If you bring folks from out of town, your kids or grandkids, it’s also an educational thing.”

The Kahite Chain Gang has been instrumental in developing numerous trails and other recreational projects throughout the Village on a strictly volunteer basis.

“We have over 30 miles of trails along the East Lakeshore Trail, and it was a labor of love,” Mulliner said. “Unless you’ve used one of these tools for three hours and if you’ve never built on the side of a hill and it hasn’t rained for seven weeks, then the ground up here is like a rock. We do all this and pull them upside down so you folks have a nice level walking path. It’s just an incredible amount of effort. We just bring these things in, put the roof on, nail it on and it always fits. We’ve put in the blood, the sweat, the bug bites, blisters and poison ivy, but we all love it.”

Bradbury is still pushing for more ways to enhance the trail system and get more people involved in helping.

“The other thing is I look to the Timeless Tellico Foundation and look to maybe put some benches out there,” he said. “There’s discussions about a swing, and we’re looking at the possibility of naming it after someone at some point. At first, it was just Gary and I out there. Then other people started coming out and there were days we had 30 people out there. We have discussions about how we can enhance things. We have trails right here on our property in our backyard and we want to highlight them.”