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Public phase of Tennessee RiverLine launches from Suttree Landing Park with paddle event

Officials gathered at Suttree Landing Park to kick off the public phase of the Tennessee RiverLine project, a new 652-mile trail system.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Soon, explorers and adventurers will be able to travel across Tennessee in a single trek.

Tennessee RiverLine officials launched the public phase of the project on Friday during an event at Suttree Landing Park in downtown Knoxville. Project leaders spoke before five fleets of kayaks were dedicated to citizens in river communities along the trail. There were 60 kayaks in total, officials said.

The Tennessee RiverLine project was founded at the University of Tennessee in 2016. It partners with 15 river communities through the Tennessee RiverTowns Program, which provides equipment, design and support for public events and grants meant to make the river more accessible.

Officials called the Tennessee Riverline "North America's next great regional trail system." It is meant to provide 652 miles of continuous paddling, hiking and biking experience along the full length of the Tennessee River, from Knoxville to Paducah, Kentucky.

The Tennessee Valley Authority partnered with UT and committed $1.2 million for the project in January.

The project is also meant to help bring economic development to 2.4 million people in the involved river communities, as well as public health initiatives. It is also meant to provide improved environmental stewardship to the state.

Participants also had the chance to paddle in the Tennessee River from Suttree Landing. Assistance and life jackets were provided.

On Wednesday, two people also completed the entire journey in the course of 35 days. Officials said they started in Knoxville on April 11 and landed at the Paducah waterfront on May 16.