City approves plan to re-acquire state-owned property, discuss golf course needs

Published 11:26 am Friday, May 12, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Star Correspondent
Elizabethton City Council members approved a plan Thursday to re-acquire state-owned property that at one time had been planned to become a fish hatchery.

Back in 2009, the state purchased the property at 411 Cherokee Park Drive in Elizabethton for $200,000. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency had planned to develop a fish hatchery at the property, which borders the south bank of the Watauga River.

Funding was never allocated for the 25-acre property, which currently includes part of an older water treatment plant. The building is dilapidated and is covered in graffiti.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Council members voted to accept a resolution to accept the donation of the property from the state at no cost to the city.

City Manager Daniel Estes said there may be some costs after the acquisition associated with securing the property. He said the city may be able to apply for grants to help mitigate any issues at the former industrial site.

The council also approved a resolution regarding the Rural Violent Crimes Initiative grant. City Police Chief Jason Shaw said funds will be used for 10 tag reader devices, a 3D crime scene drawing machine and upgrades to three interview rooms at the police department.

During the public comment period, council members heard complaints from local golfers who use the city-owned golf course, which is managed by Hampton Golf. One golfer said the course has deteriorated since Hampton Golf took over the property. He complained of fallen trees, weeds, stumps and greens that have not been watered.

He suggested the city take back management of the golf course and also allow for a volunteer group to help at the golf course.

Golf course manager Steve Howard, who submitted his resignation to council, said the golf course is in need of capital improvements. He said a new irrigation system is needed.

Howard told council members that Bermuda grass courses, such as the Elizabethton golf course, have been greatly damaged due to weather issues over the past year, especially this past winter, according to a University of Tennessee study.

Howard, a local resident, said he plans to become a golf course member after resigning. He noted that there were 78 members when he first began working at the course and that has grown to more than 100. He also said there has been an increase in tournaments and other events at the course.

Elizabethton Street and Sanitation Director Danny Hilbert said he has been looking for ways to remove a large number of trees from the property. Several trees fell this past winter and during storms this year at the golf course.

Council members also asked Howard about whether the golf course’s restaurant is successful. Howard said he recommends the city close the restaurant, which has not made any money. Council members said they didn’t believe guests visit the property to eat a meal.

Robert Benfield with the Elizabethton Arts and Cultural Alliance spoke briefly about the Arts in Action event that was held this past weekend in downtown. The event, which was intended to showcase art and culture in the city, attracted many guests, Benfield said.

Benfield said guests from eight to 80 years old attended the event. Artists shared their work with those in attendance and demonstrated various crafts, such as painting. He said the Arts in Action event involved several businesses.

Although Benfield and others described the event as a success, three speakers commented about an incident on Elk Avenue. August Muse owner Paula Augustine said a 17-year-old artist showcasing paintings in front of the business was confronted and intimidated by some attending the car show, which was held during the same hours.

The young artist is expected to continue showcasing her work in downtown, the speakers said.