Retirees enjoy building trails in Tellico Village
knoxnews.com-LOUDON, Tenn. — Trail building is likely not on most retirees’ bucket list, but Gary Mulliner and some of his fellow Tellico Village residents are finding the pick-and-shovel work a great way to pass the day.
“I play golf a couple of days a week, but to tell you the truth, I’d rather be out here,” said Mulliner, on a recent hot morning in a woods near the Wellness Center at the Loudon area retirement community. “Besides, my swing is better for this.”
The group has been working on a trail complex for about four months. A half-mile trail built by Tellico Village’s public works department has been stretched to several miles. The hope is to build a system of looping trails that could provide a walk of more than eight miles.
“When they told me we had 85 acres here, it was like a Christmas present. It was property that was sitting here and no one was using it,” said Simon Bradbury, who started as Tellico Village recreation director in November. “We had taken a survey of what people were looking for in trails. I said, 'Why don’t we build here?' This is a great place for a trail.”
A select group of retiree volunteers really enjoy the work.
“It gets in your blood and it is very rewarding,” said Bradbury. “When they are down here working and someone comes by and is walking their trail, they love that. It’s not about their ego, it’s about making a difference. They are looking at the legacy they are leaving for their friends.”
“We have been taking and now it’s time to give back,” explained volunteer Bob Fagan.
A handful of volunteers do the work. They come out for a couple hours every Wednesday.
Mulliner is a special case.
“I come out whenever I feel like it,” he said.
A former school teacher who also worked in the design business, Mulliner had jobs in Maryland, New Zealand and California before retiring.
“I worked in an office most of my life, and now I just enjoy being outdoors and doing some work,” he said.
So he helped put a trail system in the Kahite area of Tellico Village, even constructing kiosks that offer historic information on the area. He also helped build bridges on the golf course.
He has done the signage along these trails. One is named Raccoon Ridge, because an albino raccoon was spotted there during construction. The workers call themselves the Raccoon Ridge Trail Boys. Another trail is named Smiling Frog.
On a recent morning, Mulliner and Fagan was extending the trail on the side of a hill.
“It’s slow when you are on the side of a hill,” Mulliner said as he yanked out roots from a spot just dug. “If you are on a flat spot it moves right along. We have a system. Bob digs the trail and I smooth it out. Some days will have five or six guys out here. Then you can really move.”
Mulliner said he had come the night before to pad out where the trail would go, making a barely visible path for Fagan and him to follow the next day.
“I’m not a hiker. I am worker,” he said, adding that he doesn’t expect to hike the trail system much when it is finished.
“If this doesn’t get finished until fall, I’m happy with that,” Mulliner said. “It might not seem to hot out here, but you swing that pick for about three minutes and it gets hot in a hurry.”
He said when it’s done he’ll likely move on to other projects.
Mulliner and his fellow volunteers were honored at a recent ceremony and Tellico Village. Their work should provide some memorable hours for residents who just want to get out and take a walk in the woods.
“Sure, they can go to the Smokies,” Bradbury said, “but they can also walk right here. It’s so quiet and beautiful back in these woods.”