Upgrades coming to eastern Hamilton County parks

Upgrades coming to eastern Hamilton County parks

September 25th, 2017 by Myron Madden in Local Regional News

A gravel parking lot is seen in East Hamilton County Park on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Collegedale, Tenn. The busy park is in need of a paved parking lot, according to Collegedale Mayor Katie Lamb, and several of the playing fields need lights.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

As more families flock to the eastern part of Hamilton County, the county's Parks and Recreation Department is working to make sure the area's three parks are up to par.

Over the next five years, Standifer Gap Park, East Hamilton County Park and Apison Park will see much-needed renovations as part of an ongoing initiative to improve the 16 parks maintained by the county.

County Parks and Recreation Director Tom Lamb said improvements for the parks in the White Oak Mountain Area, which includes Apison, Collegedale, East Brainerd and Summit, would be especially important, as it is expected to receive 32 percent of the coming housing demand.

"We need to start planning ahead now as to how we're going to be able to meet those demands for recreation and open space for then, too," he said.

No funds have yet been committed for renovations at any of the three parks. The projects have been scheduled, Lamb said, and the department will move forward with items approved in its capital budget for the fiscal year. Projects could take place sooner should grants or alternative funding sources present themselves, he added.

Standifer Gap Park

The parks department already has begun addressing improvements residents near Standifer Gap Road requested for their local park late last year.

The tennis courts at Standifer Gap Park and Recreation Center are seen in 2015, after recently being refinished.

The tennis courts at Standifer Gap Park and...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Since meeting with community members in November, the county has repaired the park's slide, which had a hole that made it a safety hazard, and replaced its swing set.

Lamb said the department plans to allocate capital funds in its fiscal 2019 budget for repairing the park's basketball court, which was closed about 10 years ago to stop suspected drug dealing and fighting that took place there.

The park also is in line for shaded structures or a picnic shelter in fiscal 2020, and resurfacing of the aged walking path and tennis court the year after that.

Though no timetable was given, Lamb said the tennis court and athletic field lights will also need to be updated and replaced. He estimated all the work needed for Standifer Gap Park would cost $125,000.

East Hamilton County Park

Lamb said East Hamilton County Park is in desperate need of a paved parking lot.

A hot spot for baseball and softball tournaments, the park often draws thousands of players and spectators, making it all the more urgent that its large gravel parking lot be replaced, said Lamb. Aside from wear due to foot traffic, the lot gets washed out during heavy rains.

"So it's not really a sustainable model," he explained. "What they really need is something that is a little bit more permanent that's easier to get along with and is not going to have any problems with weather."

The park also needs lights at two of its playing fields. Lamb said the projects are tentatively scheduled to take place in phases in fiscal 2019 and 2020 and are expected to cost approximately $250,000.

Apison Park

The county is looking to get more community input before scheduling improvements for Apison Park, Lamb said.

The Parks and Recreation Department has been working with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency to get residents' input on recreation needs in the White Oak Planning Area. Lamb said parks officials have been paying particularly close attention to feedback from Apison, as the area's new volunteer fire station was built partially on land formerly intended to be a ball field.

"Before we make decisions as to what we need to add or how we may need to change that we want to make sure that we've reached out and gotten as much input from the community as possible," he said. "We appreciate everyone's interest and want to make sure we can meet the needs of the community."

RPA officials held their last public input session for Apison in July and will keep residents updated on future feedback-gathering meetings.

Contact staff writer Myron Madden at mmadden@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6423.