published Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Dunlap eyes pedestrian walkway

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Dan Shell

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    Staff Photo by Ben Benton Dunlap resident Dan Shell wants to help the city to find funding for a 1,700-foot pedestrian walkway along Coops Creek. People need a safe path from the south side of town to the north to avoid having to walk across the Rankin Avenue bridge, shown in the background.

DUNLAP, Tenn. -- City leaders are reviving an idea floated a couple of years ago for a pedestrian bridge and walkway to make foot travel safer between downtown and the business district.

Resident Dan Shell proposed the idea in 2007, but the downturn in the economy left it on the city's back burner.

Mr. Shell said he hopes the idea's revival and a new grant application make the walkway a reality.

"This would link this end of town all the way up to the courthouse," Mr. Shell said, standing on the north end of the Rankin Avenue bridge over Coops Creek.

Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land said the city is applying for an enhancement grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to fund the project. The city's last application for the project was turned down, but officials want to keep trying.

Project costs are estimated at $133,118, with the city paying about 20 percent, or about $27,000, he said.

"I think it's going to open up a lot of foot traffic for our businesses," Mr. Land said. "It'll be a starting point for future walkways and green spaces."

Mr. Shell said he's talked to all but one of the property owners on the walkway's 1,720-foot path. There are six property owners on the path, he said, five are OK with the plan, one is not in favor and one hasn't been contacted.

Coops Creek landowner Carol Gaddy opposes the idea for now.

She said the city needs to focus on drainage problems that cause Coops Creek to flood and erode the bank on her property, which borders the creek at Main Street.

"I think in the future, having a walkway along Coops Creek is a wonderful idea," Ms. Gaddy said. But a walkway might do nothing to stabilize the creek bank and could be undone by the city's poor drainage, she said.

"I just want it to be sustainable," she said. "Let's be wise in the planning with every dollar that we spend."

Currently, there are only two ways for people to cross Coops Creek -- the automobile bridges on Rankin Avenue and Main Street. Pedestrians crossing either of the bridges must walk on the roadway or on a narrow strip of concrete at the edge.

Mr. Shell said the bridges are too dangerous for people on foot or bicycles, and walkways have been proposed several times over the last 20 years. He was prompted to propose the project in 2007 because he worried for his son's safety when the two walked to town.

Nine-year-old Jackson Shell said he was afraid of cars when crossing the bridges, but liked the idea of a path along the creek leading people to town.

"People love a good area where they can shop and do stuff while they can also enjoy the great outdoors," Jackson said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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