Canoe access into Big Hickory Creek, once believed to have sailed into the sunset, could be making a comeback. However, the project has a new problem.
“It’s not over,” McMinnville Mayor Norman Rone said of the city’s effort to establish canoe access beside Crouch Memorial Bridge on Morrison Street. “We didn’t get our paperwork into TDOT on time, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t moving forward with the effort.”
The city failed to submit its paperwork and missed the last Excess Land Committee meeting. However, according to TDOT spokesperson Jennifer Flynn, the city’s paperwork has finally been received and is making its way through the process.
“Our process takes awhile, and there are problems with this request,” she said. “I’m not sure what the end result will be. I do know we can’t hold off on finishing the bridge project until this situation is resolved.”
City officials attempted to make a hurried push early this year with hopes of cashing in on a TDOT bridge replacement project. For construction purposes, a gravel access path was placed and will be removed once the bridge is complete in July. If the gravel can be left, the city would not have to purchase gravel to place a path.
In order to keep the gravel in place and build a canoe access, the city thought it must get TDOT approval on using the property for that specific purpose and request it re-negotiate its contract with the construction company over the bridge project to leave the gravel.
Thoughts can be inaccurate, which is a new problem currently facing canoe access. Flynn says the state does not own all of the land it is currently using as a gravel access path, also called a haul road, under the bridge.
“When we originally set the project, we thought we could place a haul road on the other side of the bridge,” Flynn said. “We own that property. We were told it would not work because of a bluff.”
A deal was struck between the contractor and a private property owner to place a gravel path on the opposite side of the bridge, which is where it is now. The wording of that agreement is unknown.
Because part of the land contractors are using is private property, TDOT cannot give its permission to use that section of land or instruct the company to leave the gravel there.
“Even if we were able to leave the gravel on our section, we can’t give permission for the city to use private property,” said Flynn. “At this time, I don’t know what the agreement is between the contractor and the property owner.”
An original problem facing the project was strong opposition from at least one property owner who requested TDOT deny the city’s request out of fear of strangers having access to private property and the possible problems that might cause.
Rone says lights would be installed and McMinnville Police Department would patrol the area, which he hopes will alleviate the property owner’s concerns.
Of the situation Flynn adds, “At this point, there are more problems than answers.”