Chattanooga area cities compete for money to build bike paths, walking trails

Chattanooga area cities compete for money to build bike paths, walking trails

October 31st, 2011 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

Bill Carney, director of the Chattanooga Woodworking Academy, is photographed Thursday at the replica of Poe's Tavern being constructed adjacent to the Soddy-Daisy Municipal Building, about a quarter of a mile from the original location of the building. The original structure was the first county seat and courthouse for Hamilton County.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

GRANTS REQUESTED

1. Brainerd Road: sidewalks, bike paths, landscaping and historic preservation from Eastgate Loop to Chickamauga Creek Greenway. Federal share $1.3 million, local match $327,334

2. East Ridge: Sidewalks, bike paths and landscaping along Ringgold Road between Germantown Road and Bales Avenue. Federal share $714,677, local match $178,669.20

3. Highway 58: Sidewalks, bike paths, landscaping and flood control, Webb Road to Murray Hills Drive. Federal share $2.1 million, local match $535,939

4. Lakesite: Sidewalks and bike paths on Hixson Pike from the city limits to Daisy Dallas Road. Federal share $184,122.40, local match $46,031.60

5. Manufacturer's Road and Hamm Road: Sidewalks and bike paths on trail to Moccasin Bend interpretive center. Federal share $1.2 million. Local match $300,461

6. Red Bank: Sidewalks and bike paths on Lyndon Avenue. Federal share $374,433, local match $93,608.

7. Riverwalk extension from Chattanooga Creek to St. Elmo. Federal share $2.3 million, local match $576,000

8. Soddy-Daisy: Historic preservation, walking and bike paths for plaza at Poe's Tavern Visitor Center/Museum. Federal share $200,000, local match $50,000

Source: Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization

Soddy-Daisy isn't asking for much.

From a list of $8 million in federal grant requests by local cities for sidewalks, bike paths, stormwater control and historic preservation, Soddy-Daisy is asking for just $200,000.

The city wants the money to build a walking and bike trail around a plaza where a bit of Hamilton County's earliest history is being re-created.

On a sloping lawn beside the town's municipal building, volunteers using old-style tools are hand-building a replica of Poe's Tavern. Built in 1817, the log structure was a focal point in the community and became Hamilton County's first courthouse when the new county was carved out from neighboring Rhea. Later, two detachments of Cherokees camped there before embarking on the Trail of Tears.

The city plans to use the log building as a museum and visitor center, and the plaza out front for community gatherings, farmers markets and music festivals.

"It's a long shot but I certainly think it's worth it," said Hardie Stulce, Soddy-Daisy city manager. "It's historical, it's scenic ... and there's nothing like this in this end of the county."

But there's strong competition in the list of grant requests set to be approved Tuesday by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Regional Transportation Planning Organization - TPO for short. And all those requests will jostle for funding with others from across the state.

"It's really competitive," said Karen Rennich, deputy director of the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency and TPO coordinator.

"We're a really small MPO [compared to Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis] and we have eight or 10 projects," Rennich said.

Who wants what

The federal transportation enhancement program aims to encourage projects that get people out of their autos - sidewalks, bike paths, walking trails and such.

The best-known local beneficiary has to be the Tennessee Riverwalk.

"The enhancement program has been a major participant in just about every phase of the Riverwalk," said Louis Prosterman, Hamilton County development coordinator. Work on the current phase downtown is partly funded from an earlier enhancement grant of $2.8 million, he said.

This year Hamilton County is asking for $2.3 million to extend the walk from Chattanooga Creek to St. Elmo.

Chattanooga has three requests for sidewalks, bike paths and landscaping along city streets.

A section along Brainerd Road from the Eastgate Loop to the Chickamauga Creek Greenway will also address water quality issues required by state environmental regulators, said Dennis Malone, assistant city engineer.

"All of that is kind of working together in a project to help mitigate some of the area that is paved and looking to put more of it into green infrastructure," he said.

Another section along Highway 58, between Webb Road and Murray Hills Drive, will include sloped drainage courses called bioswales to help with stormwater runoff.

The city also is asking for money to build paths along Manufacturer's Road and Hamm Road to the eventual interpretive center at Moccasin Bend.

East Ridge is seeking funding for sidewalks and landscaping along Ringgold Road between Germantown Road and Bales Avenue. Lakesite wants the same along Hixson Pike from the city limits to Daisy Dallas Road. Red Bank wants to put sidewalks on Lyndon Avenue.

Whether any or all of the projects will actually get funded is up in the air, Malone said.

"Two years ago we received funding for two projects [on] Highway 58 and Rossville Boulevard. Last year we received one for the whole city-county and that was for the Riverpark. This year we didn't receive anything," he said.

"You try to put your project forward in those different [funding] categories and hope for the best."

Living History

Stulce said Soddy-Daisy isn't near the top of anyone's list when there's grant money to be handed out.

"The last we got from TDOT for a park or recreation facility was when Ned Ray McWherter was governor," he said. McWherter left office in 1995.

But Stulce hopes this project will be judged favorably.

On Thursday, Stulce stood with Bill Carney, head of the Chattanooga Woodworking Academy, beside the hand-hewn logs of the replica building.

Carney married his desire to teach with his passion for local history when he decided to take on the Poe's Tavern project.

He figured out the size of the building by crawling under the house that now stands on the original Poe's Tavern site and measuring the foundation of the original.

He rescued the 150-year-old yellow pine logs - the same material used to build the original - from a truck headed for a McMinn County chip mill.

"We're looking at timber that dates from right after the Civil War. In fact, it was probably in a field that was fallow because of the war," he said.

He said it took "tremendous craftsmanship" by his students to shape the beams using axes and adzes.

"We've tried to stay true, here, to the design, materials, all the way through," Carney said.

The work has all been done by volunteers and most of the financing has come from selling the logs used in the building at $1,000 apiece. Donors' names eventually will be displayed on a plaque.

The grant, if it comes, will help create a walking trail and landscaped public plaza with pavilions for farmers markets, craft fairs and other public gatherings.

"If we get gospel singing and a farmers market and crafts, that'll attract people back to the center of town," Carney said. "Then maybe some of these little storefronts will fill back up."

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Contact Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6298.