The ongoing saga of Riverfront Park renovations may continue until spring. Approval has yet to be received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for work in the water, but improvements at the park are being made.
“If I had it my way, the work would have been complete months ago,” said McMinnville Parks and Recreation director Scott McCord. “We are trying as hard as we can to get this project moving forward, trust me. Our hands are tied until we get approval for the work.”
The corps must approve all work done along rivers, such as this project along the Barren Fork River. The organization, a federal agency under the Department of Defense, is responsible for investigating, developing, and maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources.
Parks and Recreation assistant director Greg Wanamaker has been calling weekly to check on the status of the project.
“I was told this would probably be a lengthy process,” said Wanamaker. “I guess that is true. We have done everything on our part. We have sent the plans and information to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. We still need a permit from the Corps of Engineers.”
Work includes placing a concrete dock and disturbing sediment in the boat holding area. Wanamaker says when work involves disturbance of water, the corps has to conduct an environmental study.
“Anytime you do any construction or make changes along the waterways, you have to get a permit from them,” he said. “They study the environmental aspect of it, which is one of the things that is taking so long. We are not the only project they are investigating.”
The city of McMinnville applied for a grant from TWRA in 2009 to cover the work. A grant for $86,995 was received in 2010. By the terms of the contract, a 20 percent match brought the grant total to approximately $104,000.
“We have received a three-year extension from TWRA, so we are not going to lose the grant,” said Wanamaker. “We have plenty of time. It looks like we might need it.”
Despite the work along the water at a standstill, improvements are being made in other areas of Riverfront Park by Parks and Recreation employees.
“We are currently renovating all the benches in the park,” said McCord. “They were in terrible condition. I also have plans to replace the old sign at the entrance to the park.”
Among other improvements, the old picnic table at the beginning of the walking trail will be renovated and a grate has been placed over the drainage ditch beside the playground to make it more accessible.
Visitors to the park have long enjoyed feeding the ducks, swans and geese with bread, crackers, popcorn, etc. McCord says a dispenser was added in the last month that will allow residents to buy food that is more appropriate for the animals to ingest, including fish.
“We had a company approach us about placing a food dispenser,” he said. “This food is better for the animals, and they really seem to enjoy it.”
The dispenser was placed at no cost to the city of McMinnville, and McMinnville Parks and Recreation gets half the proceeds from sales. Individuals pay 25 cents for a handful of feed.
When renovation in the water is allowed to move forward, the 12-foot boat ramp will be doubled in size and the docking area for boats will be cleaned and improved.