published Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Dunlap studies Harris Park expansion

Hayden and Austin Griffith, from left, twirl the merry-go-round at Harris Park as Megan Chapman, right, approaches to help with spinning at Dunlap, Tenn."s Harris Park. City officials are studying an expansion of the park.
Hayden and Austin Griffith, from left, twirl the merry-go-round at Harris Park as Megan Chapman, right, approaches to help with spinning at Dunlap, Tenn."s Harris Park. City officials are studying an expansion of the park.
Photo by Ben Benton.

DUNLAP, Tenn. -- People who visit Dunlap's Harris Park think the idea of expanding its footprint by a third of a block would boost use and add space for activities.

Lifelong resident Allie Lahmers on Wednesday took her two boys to play at the park.

Expanding the park into the rest of the block "would be great," Lahmers said as she sat in one of the two adult swings at the children's playground watching her boys, Hayden and Austin Griffith, 3 and 4, respectively.

"I think the park is fine the way it is," she hedged a little, "but it could use some more room for kids to play."

Mary Grindstaff, who was sitting in the other adult swing watching great-granddaughters Megan, 6, and Emily Chapman, 7, said she and the girls visit the park about three times a week and would like more space.

"We usually stay at least an hour and a half," Grindstaff said as Megan showed off shells, a feather and a couple of pennies she discovered while playing.

The proposed expansion is part of a 10-year vision for the city's public use areas, said Yonna Weldon, executive assistant to Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land and the person overseeing paperwork for the proposal.

On the southern end of the block are damaged city maintenance buildings that were battered by the April 2011 storms.

Weldon said the proposal is to demolish the maintenance buildings, install a bandstand at the south end, extend the walking track and install a "splash pad" for children in the center of the block.

The expansion "would give us room to accommodate more people and more activities," she said.

Weldon said ideas for uses include events such as "movies in the park," when the city could show family movies on a big screen.

The next step is funding the proposal, she said.

The city is readying an application for a Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that requires a 50/50 local match.

There are no cost estimates yet, she said, but officials hope to keep costs down through in-kind work.

Ervin E. May often motors to the park in his electric wheelchair from his apartment a couple of blocks away.

May said expanding on the south end would open up the view from Dunlap's police department and probably reduce vandalism and littering in the area.

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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