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Access to boat ramp in jeopardy
VFW boat ramp.jpg
The owners of the VFW property own the boat ramp leading to the Collins River, city officials say.

An agreement that guarantees public access to a boat ramp located on Sparta Highway may not exist. 

The city’s Parks and Recreation Committee and its Building and Grounds Committee met Tuesday night to consider the property, the closing of VFW, and the potential loss of access to the Collins River at that spot.

“I think the city’s main interest here to just to preserve access to the river,” said Alderman Steve Harvey. “We don’t want to see the boat ramp access go away.”

It is believed Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency constructed the ramp in the 1980s and at that time, an easement for public right of way was signed. However, no such document can be found. 

City attorney Tim Pirtle says his search has been unsuccessful. 

“I searched the deeds on the property and could find no record of an easement or a lease regarding public use of the ramp,” said Pirtle. 

A request he sent to TWRA requesting a copy of the agreement has received no reply. 

“It sounds like whomever owns the VFW owns access to the ramp,” said Harvey.

Pirtle agreed, “It is my legal option the VFW owns the ramp and all incidental access to the ramp in lieu of a contract.”

In attendance were several members of VFW Post 5064, who stated the city will not find an agreement or lease because one does not exist. 

“It was a handshake agreement,” said one member. “You won’t find an easement anywhere.”

Another member said TWRA representatives came in 2016 and removed the signs along the highway that designated it as a TWRA ramp. At that time, post members decided to charge $5 for parking to help with upkeep of the property. 

“Would your organization entertain allowing the city an easement?” asked Pirtle. 

Any agreement, said one member, would require majority approval during a membership meeting. Those are held on the third Thursday of every month with the next set for April 18.

City officials tabled the discussion until April 9 and requested Pirtle begin working on an easement agreement.