Continued research approved for many new recreation facilities

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Contributed Photo  Mike Mains said this is an example of the type of splash pad being considered for replacement of the aging baby pool at Franklin Pool.

Contributed Photo
Mike Mains said this is an example of the type of splash pad being considered for replacement of the aging baby pool at Franklin Pool.

Could the future of Elizabethton hold a mountain biking park, disc golf course, dog park, sports complex, skate park, Franklin Pool splash pad and Overmountain Victory Trail expansion?
Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Board members believe it could. That is why they voted at their March meeting to continue research on these future recreation opportunities.
“We had a decline in the economy and over time, we have gradually begun to increase funding,” said Elizabethton P&R Director Mike Mains. “We’ve had to take care of what we have, and we still have a lot of work to do to replace trash can holders and repair pavilions, there are always things that come up, but now we’re able to look ahead and make progress. It’s an exciting time for our community.”
Though Mains said these projects will take time, collaboration, research and funding, he said they are long term investments in the health of the residents and in the local economy.
“People already travel here to use our facilities, but for some things, they are traveling elsewhere,” he said. “We could be accommodating those needs right here.”
He said for months, residents have been asking for an adult softball league, but between Joe O’Brien Field and the Twins Stadium, they would be hard pressed to accommodate another league. The creation of a sports complex would facilitate adult and youth softball and would help accommodate the hundreds of youth playing baseball in the American League, National League and travel leagues, which currently practice and compete at existing facilities. Mains said it would also open the door to the potential of a kickball league, which they have had in the past.
“If we build a sports complex, it could also incorporate soccer and other groups that could use that field,” said Mains. “It will bring tourism dollars to the area and will take care of meeting the needs we currently have with adult play fields as well as the needs of youth.”
As with most of the projects approved for further research, Mains said they must locate property and funding to move forward. He said they are working with Elizabethton Planning and Development as well as the county Parks and Recreation Board to identify options.
Mains has worked closely with Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association to assess whether the 102-acre Sugar Hollow site would be a suitable mountain biking facility. He said their representatives are very excited about the property as only 75 acres can amount to 10 miles of mountain bike trails. He said the terrain is ideal for their endeavor, and the property is large enough to accommodate additional amenities like a disc golf course or dog park. Some of the issues identified with the property and discussed at the meeting were the need for more accessible roads to the site and the current occupation of a portion of the property for the Elizabethton Police Department shooting range.
The Overmountain Victory Trail expansion would extend the historic trail from Sullivan to Carter County and would cost an estimated $75,000. The National Parks Service has pledged to pay 60 percent of the cost, but Mains said they want $5,000 each from Elizabethton, Carter County, Sullivan County and Bristol. Both Mains and Carter County P&R Board Chair Ken Gouge have said this would be a valuable asset for both recreation and tourism.
The Splash Pad addition at Franklin Pool is being considered as a replacement for the aging baby pool. Splash pads are surfaced recreation areas with water that sprays out of a variety of fountains. Mains said it would provide a safe facility for both toddlers and children and that they have been wildly popular attractions in other towns.
The filtration system installed two years ago would be capable of running both the pool and the splash pad and any additions to the splash pad, Mains said.
“It’s something that we believe will be enjoyed by a lot of people and older kids as well,” he said. “The thing about this is once you get main facility put in place, you can come back and add features to the splash pad area which make it an exciting attraction for years to come.”
The splash pad would cost between $75,000-150,000, and Mains said they are in the process of applying for a 50 percent matching grant.
Mains said these projects may not be completely developed for a few years, but they are working diligently to identify the steps, tools and funding required to build an Elizabethton with the area’s best recreational facilities.
“Recreation is important, and our Parks and Recreation Boards know that not everyone enjoys certain things, so we want to address the variety of needs for all age groups,” said Mains.

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