City workers on Monday put up a chain-link fence to prevent access to The Passage, a popular downtown tourist attraction that has been closed because of safety concerns.
Kevin Brady, the city’s director of parks, said plastic screen fencing has been used to block visitors from gaining access to the water-based attraction, which was built to honor Cherokee Indians. But he said folks were getting in, and the new 6-foot-tall chain fence would do a better job of keeping people out.
“It’s our responsibility to keep the public safe as best we can,” Mr. Brady said.
Meanwhile, the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp. board on Monday approved an $85,000 study to look at problems at the water-based Passage attraction at the downtown waterfront.
Officials said some tiles have fallen off walls. In addition, the feature has cracks and officials are concerned about electrical grounding.
Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell-- Josh Hale, from A Affordable Fence Co., puts up a fence surrounding The Passage at Ross’s Landing behind the Tennessee Aquarium.
“What I think the city wants is to make sure it’s safe,” said Vance Travis, principal in the firm TWH Architects Inc., which is working on the project.
Officials said they would like to at least use The Passage as a pathway during the Riverbend Festival this June.
“You can use the steps as the worst case (scenario),” Mr. Travis said. “It’s the water feature we’re worried the most about.”
Mr. Travis told board members Monday that he will return to the redevelopment corporation in May with study results and “early recommendations” for any capital improvements.
During Monday’s meeting, officials discussed the purpose of the attraction’s pool.
Chattanooga Councilwoman Sally Robinson, serving on the redevelopment corporation board, said the original intent was for that part of The Passage to be a reflecting pool.
But officials acknowledged that the pool is very popular for wading.
“We’ll never be able to keep people out of that water,” Ms. Robinson said.
Mayor Ron Littlefield said later Monday that officials will have to determine how the pool will be used.
Mr. Littlefield said “safety is the key concern” as officials try to address The Passage.
“Of course we want to move as quickly as possible and still end up with a safe environment,” he said.
Paul Brock, president of RiverCity Co., a development firm that worked closely on the $120 million 21st Century Waterfront during the administration of former mayor and current U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said after the meeting that his organization will work with the city on fixing The Passage. He said the water-based attraction was “thoughtfully and carefully designed and constructed.”
“If we can cooperate with the city in trying to get this Passage open as quickly as possible, we want to do this,” Mr. Brock said.
Mr. Littlefield reiterated the administration’s point that no one is “pointing fingers or complaining about anything or trying to place blame.”
“We’re simply trying to resolve the problems that have become obvious,” Mr. Littlefield said.
Keri Gaither, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student who visited the Tennessee Aquarium on Monday, said the waterfront is a nice family attraction.
“I guess it’s sort of disappointing that it wasn’t repaired before now, before the weather would be nice enough for the kids to play in the water,” Ms. Gaither said.
Lyndon and Kathy Wilson, of Ringgold, Ga., sat at Ross’s Landing on Monday afternoon. Noting the fencing and yellow do-not-cross lines near The Passage, Mrs. Wilson said city officials need to mend the attraction so it can reopen.
“It’s a good attraction, but it’s hard to enjoy when they keep closing it,” Mrs. Wilson said.
In other business Monday, the downtown redevelopment corporation approved $800,000 in work to rectify “comfort issues” with the heating, cooling and ventilation systems at the city-owned Development Resource Center. That figure includes $55,000 in building contingency funds.
City Chief Financial Officer Daisy Madison, who leads the redevelopment corporation, said after the meeting that the lease agreement calls for any capital expenses to be covered by the city, the county and any agencies that use the office building.
Staff writer Adam Crisp contributed to this story.
- Wading pool 72%
- Reflective pool 28%
36 total votes.