Officials from Tennessee State Parks, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), and local leaders today cut the ribbon on a new hard-surface walking and biking trail in T.O. Fuller State Park that’s over 2.5 miles long—made from rubber crumbs derived from tires.
The tires had been illegally dumped in the area around the park, gathered by volunteers and local contractors, then transformed into crumbs by Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol, the only facility in the state with the ability to recycle tires in such a way. It is one of the longest rubber-bearing trails in the U.S.
Once the tires were recycled into crumbs, the material was brought back to the park for construction of the trail.
The project, which began with collection in 2019, was funded by a Tire Environmental Act Program grant of $250,000, and near-equal amounts from other state department programs.
“This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material then converting it into positive use,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TN Dept. of Environment and Conservation.
“It’s exactly the kind of responsible environmental activity Tennesseans can be proud of, where an area can be cleaned up then have people enjoy the benefits in a new way.”
The trail largely replaces worn cart paths from an old golf course, with new connections making for a modern loop trail design.
Workers cleaned up over 24,000 dumped tires, including passenger, commercial truck and heavy equipment tires. The cleanup had 450 registered volunteers and saw 10,000 tires collected in one day.
“TDOT spends more than $19 million annually picking up litter and educating the public about the negative impacts,” said TDOT Interim Commissioner Joseph Galbato, III. “We are thankful for collaborative partnerships like the ‘Tires to Trails’ project which not only addresses the litter problem but turns it into a meaningful and positive long-lasting resource for the community.”
Ecowatch reports that other states are utilizing waste tires this way.
Kentucky’s Department of Waste Management recently welcomed applications for projects that utilize rubber crumbs. In April, Alabama unveiled new roads and parking areas at Lake Guntersville State Park made up of recycled tires, and a recycled rubber walking trail at Obregon Park in east Los Angeles, California was installed back in 2014 for locals to enjoy, writes Paige Bennett.