Elizabethton Parks & Rec board receives updates on projects

Published 9:07 am Friday, April 7, 2023

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The Elizabethton Parks and Rec board met for their regularly scheduled April meeting at the Recreation Center where they heard several updates on ongoing projects.
Wes Bradley with SORBA had several updates on the Hampton Watershed bike trail in Hampton.
Bradley began by sharing that even with a slight increase on the Pump Track design from $400,000 to $409,530 that once completed the track’s over/under feature will be one of a kind and likely open the doors for potential suitors such as Red Bull to bring major competitions to the area. Funding will come from a portion of the over $6 million budget Governor Lee has set aside for completion of the Hampton Watershed bike trails and Tweetsie Trail expansion which will be overseen by the county and Mayor Patty Woodby.
The design will also include a Tots Track to be located beside the Pump Track. The board voted to recommend this proposed plan to City Council.
In other news in regard to the track, Bradley said he had met with a representative of Pump Trax on a recent trip to Ohio and the group has offered to design the remaining portion of the track for $8,000 which Bradley told the board was an unheard of price.
“This will take all designs and turn them to reality,” said Bradley. “And if you build it, they will come.”
The board will follow the purchasing process and obtain a second quote on the project.
Bradley told the committee that the construction phase of trails two and three will come in just over $2 million which will be available as of July 2023. He went on to add that currently the biggest issue is clean up of the area including invasive species and downed trees. Logging companies have been contacted to see if the cost could be offset with the sale of lumber but with the age of the trees in the area they could not be used. Downed logs also can’t be used by the companies.
The Cherokee National Forest is reviewing the potential for a small part of the trail to be extended into the national forest and is accepting public comment at this time. If approval is given, approximately 300 feet of trail would be extended to the summit of Cedar Mountain.
A small task force will also be recommended for City Council approval to assist Bradley with all the ongoing work on the trails. Bradley requested Cody Howell, who did extensive work on phase, one along with Jamison Evans, President of SORBA, Olivia Young, a member of the Tri-Cities Gravity bike club, and Matt Rowland.
The grand opening of the phase one bike trail will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 21. Bradley also said that he hopes to have the groundbreaking for phase two and three on the same day.
Mike Mains, Director of Elizabethton Parks and Recreation, also provided several updates.
Mains said that in regard to Surf Betsy that currently the project is waiting for approval by City Council to move forward with the second phase of research for the project. The Franklin Fitness Center project is also in a holding pattern awaiting further direction while negotiations with Ballad Health continue. He also added that appraisals have been received on the Tom Cowan property that is under consideration for purchase by the department.
The director informed the board that several grants are being pursued including a Community Development Block Grant to be used toward improvements on the Franklin Pool that will total around $1.1 million including adding a heater to the pool.
A Healthy Built Environment grant would help the department with $80,000 toward pickle ball court improvements which Mains said is providing the senior needs of the community as there are well over 100 participants currently taking advantage of the program.
In the fall, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthy Places Grant will be pursued in the amount of $650,000 which Mains said would include an all-inclusive playground should the grant be received. Also, a Project Diabetes Grant in the amount of $500,000 is being applied for toward the Franklin Fitness Center.
Mains advised the board that it was time to review policies surrounding the rental of Covered Bridge Park for special events.
“There are several churches and other fundraising groups reaching out to rent the park,” Mains said. “We have several policies that need to be updated.”
Per an Advisory Board survey, Mains shared how projects ranked out in a prioritized listing.
The ranking was as follows:
  1. The purchase of the Tom Cowan property.
  2. The purchase of the Franklin Fitness Center.
  3. Surf Betsy.
  4. Franklin Pool renovation project.
  5. Hampton Bike & Hiking Trails Development.
  6. Skate Park.
  7. Gap Creek Park.
In regard to the skate park, Bradley told the board that bike riders have been sharing pump tracks at other locations with skateboarders.

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