A $24 million plan could create a new greenway connecting Maryville to Townsend.

Nearly 50 people showed their support for the idea during a public meeting Wednesday.

"I think it would keep the locals a little happier," Dawn Lillybad said.

Lillybad takes her kids to the park and the connecting greenway in Maryville a lot.

"You can't live here and not enjoy the mountains and the hills and everything about it," Lillybad said.

Maryville features a lot of greenways for many to enjoy. The community is considering a plan to connect the greenways to Townsend with a $24 million project.

That's one reason why Legacy Parks Foundation and its partners are raising money for a 14-mile greenway to connect Maryville and Townsend.

"It's not just about recreation, it's about connectivity, it's about walkability," said Carol Evans, executive director of Legacy Parks.

Both cities already have greenways, and Evans said the $24 million project would be paid for through federal and state grants.

"We know the economic benefits, where people want greenways, sidewalks, and trails," Evans said.

A feasibility study proposed building the greenway alongside Highway 321 in two phases. The first phase would be from downtown Maryville to Heritage High School, and the second phase would be from the high school into Townsend.

Eventually, the plan is to connect the greenway all the way to Knoxville. Wednesday's meeting focused on the section to link Maryville and Townsend.

During Wednesday's meeting, many people had questions about how the much more expensive Phase II was going to happen.

"Most of them seemed to be concerned with that Phase II, so that's good to see," John Rush said.

"The cost that they estimate is $21 million, it goes through a major cut in the road," he said. "I think people believe there are better alternatives."

Alternatives like Old Walland Highway, which runs parallel to Highway 321, but could come with its own set of challenges.

"I really appreciate almost the entire group saying let's explore alternate routes. Then what you do is you weigh the costs and the experience of all of those," Evans said.

Evans said the chances of getting federal funds are good, because the greenway would be considered a transportation route, rather than just for recreation.

You can find more information about the project here.