Fresh Ideas: About Greenways

When I campaigned for alderman, other people who were also running kept yelling out that they would have “fresh ideas!” if they were elected. I asked, “What kind of fresh ideas do you have?”  The answer was they hoped to focus on more public safety – to get more police officers to address crime. My thought (and response) was that this issue was not a fresh idea. This issue is something people have campaigned on since the beginning of mankind’s election history. As in days of Ancient Rome. As in the days when the Greeks invented democracy. That said, it doesn’t mean that more police are not necessary – they truly are necessary here in La Vergne given that we are a growing city. More retail means more opportunities for theft. More people mean more opportunities for wrong-doing. Still. Focusing on public safety is NOT a “fresh idea.”

So in this column, we will provide some ideas that truly are fresh for our city. We may not be reinventing the wheel, but perhaps elected officials and citizens can consider these as future growth is discussed and explored.

Tennessee Purple Coneflower by J. Stefanski

First, let’s talk about the new greenway. Somewhere in the 1990’s, LaVergne was awarded a million dollar grant to develop the greenway starting in the back of the parking lot behind the Multipurpose Building, go under the overpass, and have a very very nice trail along Nir Shreibman Boulevard extending to the roundabout. Somehow, someway the grant funding quietly disappeared – likely because the city had to match part of the funding and previous administrations did not budget for it.

When Mayor Mosley was elected, she was asked to sign off on that grant indicating that it had been used. She had the foresight to request proof of the expenditure and learned that it was for a long-forgotten greenway. The 2011-14 Board of Mayor and Aldermen worked to set-aside the matching amount in order to build the greenway and work began – planning, design, and building. We are seeing great progress now and the new greenway is expected to be open sometime this spring, perhaps in May 2017.

We encourage the city to continue to identify funding sources to connect the new greenway with the old roadbed in the woods between the roundabout and the lake. Extend the greenway all the way to the lake. This could be a big project / challenge because that land is owned by the federal government and managed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. It would definitely take some leg-work to make it happen. It would take support from city staff and from city leadership because they would have to work together to reach out to the Corps. That said, we do now have an assistant city administrator who had been the city engineer and knows the ins-and-outs of working with long-term projects such as this (e.g., Waldron Road widening).

I would suggest such a trail be named Hurricane Creek Trail or another name that could honor the residents who owned land that was flooded to build Percy Priest Lake.

There are all kinds of grants available to build and enhance such a trail system. For example grant money is available for nature placards, bicyclists, skaters, exercise stations, solar stations to recharge mobile devices (how cool would that be along the trail?), water fountains on the trail, and even butterfly gardens. In fact, along the lake we have one of the rare protected cedar glades in the state. The Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade protects the purple coneflower (and the cedar glade) and we should find a way to educate our citizens about this history and natural wonder.

To do these types of things, long-term plans are necessary. Just as long-term plans would be necessary to build a community center, a splash pad, and other projects that would enhance the quality of life for our residents. Speaking of splash pads, I attended an event where dozens and dozens of cities received hundreds of thousands of dollars in community development (parks and recreation) grants. At least four cities that I counted got money from the state (up to $300,000 each) to build splash pads. The city must do better about being open to grant funding and setting aside money for future development.

Also, the city MUST do better in getting feedback about the programs now offered. At the end of any program or activity, evaluate the event by surveying people who participated!  Community needs assessment is vital to qualify for grant funding and it would help establish priorities for future development.

These… these are FRESH IDEAS – from the community to the city for the benefit of everyone.

My sincere thanks to Deborah Balthrop who has served on the Parks & Recreation Committee since 2012 for brainstorming with me.  We have many more “fresh ideas”… stay tuned!

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