Parks master plan being developed by Appalachian State

Published 4:40 pm Monday, February 26, 2018

Months of discussion and collaboration is bearing fruit for a pair of parks in the City of Elizabethton.

Parks and Recreation recently announced that students part of the IDEXlab from Appalachian State University recently concluded their visual preference survey response and are combining it with input from the Parks & Rec Board and other public members to begin forming a final master plan to be utilized for future improvements at Covered Bridge Park and Edward’s Island.

“There has been a lot of hard work being put into this project,” said Mike Mains, Parks & Rec director. “This has been a great project just for the fact that we’ve received so much feedback from so many different parties — the public, to the Board to residents, the IDEAS Group, Arts & Cultural Alliance and everyone else in between. It really has been a positive experience and now our goal is to wait for the final draft of a master plan from Appy State, then we’ll take it before our Board and City Council and decide what steps to take moving forward.”

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According to information provided by the survey, over 350 residents participated in the online survey that was open for a month to the public.

Some of the highlights provided by residents included the interest of keeping a traditional scheme with architectural work and building material.

Major improvements that were highlighted by residents and received feedback included restrooms at both parks, river boardwalk and stepping, event space, a historical walkway and pavilion for the Covered Bridge. Minor features that received support included stepping stones across the Doe River near Elk Avenue Bridge, historical wayfinding, interactive water elements (i.e. a splash pad, pond, etc.), historical tree markers and other educational opportunities.

Two different presentations were presented to the Board along with comments from Elizabethton IDEAS Group member Chris Little and Elizabethton Arts & Cultural Alliance founder Robert Benefield.

With input from the public, Board and city leadership in tow, students are expected to spend the next couple of months compiling a final plan.

“Our goal will be to use the plan and set it up into steps on what we can and cannot do,” Mains said. “It will all depend on funding and other items. Our main focus from the plan, in the short term, will be to address improvements at Covered Bridge Park. From there, we would then shift our focus to improvements at Edward’s Island.”

Mains added that IDEXlab students have been a joy to work with and that they understand the importance of the parks to the community, including making sure the tradition and beauty of the Covered Bridge stays intact.

“That’s one of the first things the students have brought up to us,” Mains said. “They understand the Covered Bridge is the heart and soul of the parks and none of these designs will affect the bridge.”

Moving forward, Mains said the department will continually work with the Board and city leadership to provide updates until the final proposal arrives at the department.