A decision to ask permission, rather than forgiveness, from the state in constructing a walking trail under Beersheba Street Bridge is still spinning its wheels in the approval process.
Back in June, the city of McMinnville asked the Tennessee Department of Transportation to allow an easement across its land to continue a trail along Barren Fork River to connect Ramsey Park to Rocket Park.
“Approval is still pending, but it’s moving forward,” said City Administrator Bill Brock, who said he received an email from the state Nov. 27 to notify him of the progress.
The email was from Brian Dickerson, manager of Excess Land Office Right-Of-Way Division, who said the committee met and approved the request which will now be sent onto the next stage of the process.
“Your request indicates intent to install and maintain a walking trail under the SR-56 bridge over the Barren Fork River,” said Dickerson. “This request has been recommended for approval by the committee, contingent on nothing being attached to the structure. Your request will now proceed to the environmental process. Once all final approvals have been obtained, you will be issued a license agreement. Please understand that you do not have authorization to use state right-of-way until the license agreement is fully executed.”
The process is moving slower than trail construction, which is essentially complete. While visitors can walk the entire distance, the trail is not 100 percent done.
Wally Bigbee and Friends of the Greenway asked the city’s assistance in obtaining an easement or right of way from the state. At that time, Brock didn’t believe the state would not give permission.
“I can tell you what history has told us. No, they will not,” said Brock. “However, if you use it, they won’t say anything.”
Brock says when the city renovated Riverfront Park after Westwood Bridge was replaced, TDOT rejected a request to allow the volleyball court to be relocated to under the bridge.
“That’s what they told me when we were remodeling Riverfront Park,” said Brock. “Once they completed the bridge and we wanted to put the volleyball court under it, we requested permission. They said ‘You can’t do it’ and I said ‘What if we do’ and they said ‘We won’t do anything.’ That’s their pat answer to any request such as that. If you take it and use it, they won’t say anything.”
City attorney Tim Pirtle agreed with Brock’s assessment, but Brock was instructed to file the necessary paperwork with the state anyway.