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The duck pond in Rossville, Ga., behind the Food City supermarket downtown, that the city will redo and rebrand as "John Ross Commons."

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Redoing Rossville's duck pond park

The city of Rossville plans to fix up its duck pond park — with some help from Tennessee American Water.

The privately owned water utility announced at a Friday morning groundbreaking ceremony that it will pay for a new landscape irrigation system at the park, which the city plans to redo and rebrand as "John Ross Commons."

"We have donors who are generously giving sod, plants and trees," said Elizabeth Wells, a third-generation Rossvillian who volunteers to help revitalize the struggling city. "But we need water before we could begin planting."

The city's plan to redo the park includes removing an asphalt road in front of the historic John Ross House and laying down sod, and replacing a short fence around the spring-fed duck pond with bushes and native plant landscaping to keep people out. The new irrigation system, valued at around $15,000, will be used to water the sod and landscaping, Wells said.

Tennessee American, which has served Rossville since at least the 1920s, does help communities with donations, both locally and through its parent company's foundation, said Tennessee American Water spokeswoman Daphne Kirksey.

"[Communities] can ask us, and we'll definitely take a look at it," Kirksey said.

Other plans for Rossville's duck pond park include new seating and shade shelters, fixing the pond's fountain and replacing the little duck house on an island with something more natural, Wells said.

"This park can be much better," Wells said.

Wells is a founder of the Rossville ReDev Workshop, which describes itself as "a volunteer group of citizens, in our Twenties to our Sixties, who fiercely believe that Rossville can be a thriving and prosperous city again."

"They're the ones that have been out there getting the grants and reaching out to people making things happen," Rossville Mayor Teddy Harris said.

Not everyone is excited by the city's plans for the park.

Larry Rose Sr., the president of the Chief John Ross Association, and his son, Larry Rose Jr., don't want a security fence removed from around the John Ross House, because they're concerned that could lead to it being vandalized.

"It's actually around 240 years old. It's the oldest building in Chattanooga, and we're going to take care of it," Larry Rose Sr., said.

He also questioned the idea of removing the fence around the duck pond, since people might fall in.

"I pulled three kids out of there, myself, over the years," he said.

Wells said that the city is getting help to plan the park's renovation from the University of Georgia, and the city was advised to keep some kind of fence around the house — though she'd like something better than the chain link fence partially topped with razor wire there now.

She said she hopes to work with the Roses.

"They are wonderful members of this city. They've taken care of this house, and we are grateful," Wells said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu @timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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