CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The city of Cleveland got a $500,000 Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation parks and recreation grant for the development of a new park, dubbed Candies Creek Park, along the winding creek on the west side of the city.
"It's very exciting news for Cleveland because we don't have a playground in the northwest section of the city," said Cleveland Parks and Recreation Director Patti Petitt, who wrote the grant application. "That was what we stressed is that we need a playground in each district of the city. It's a big win for us."
The grant requires a 50% match from the city, according to officials.
The site for the park hasn't been acquired yet but it will be somewhere along Candies Creek in the area of State Highway 60, Petitt said.
The grant and the city's matching funds cannot be used to purchase any property on the former Rolling Hills golf course that borders parts of Candies Creek because it was previously developed for public recreation, she said. The city purchased about 30 acres of the property back in 2010 to use about 20 acres to mitigate wetlands impacted by the construction of the city's then-new airport in the Tasso community.
But Petitt said golf course property could be purchased for the park if city funds that are not associated with the grant were used. It could also be that the land for the park will be bought with grant money elsewhere along the creek and officials have talked with some property owners, she said.
"We are wanting about 10 acres," she said.
The proposed plan for the park includes a 16,500-square-foot playground, a 32-by-100-foot pavilion with restrooms, a 160-by-280-foot fishing pond, a park entrance and a parking lot, according to Petitt and a state news release on the grant. All facilities will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"We want Tennesseans to enjoy recreational activity, and we recognize local leaders need funding to make it happen. These grants help meet that need," Jim Bryson, deputy environment and conservation commissioner, said in the news release.
The Local Parks and Recreation Fund program provides state funding for the purchase of land for parks, natural areas, greenways and recreational facilities, as well as trail development and capital projects in parks, natural areas and greenways.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund program provides grants to states to administer to state and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities.
The Recreational Trails Program is a federally funded, state-administered grant program, providing funds for land acquisition for trails, trail maintenance, trail construction, trail rehabilitation and trail head support facilities.
Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
The grant is part of $7.6 million awarded to communities throughout the state from the state department's Local Parks and Recreation Fund program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund program, spokesperson Kim Schofinski said in the release.
Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks said improving the overall quality of life in Cleveland and Bradley County has long-reaching positive impacts, especially in wooing industry and other businesses that bring jobs to the community.
"These companies that are coming to Cleveland and Bradley County — Cannon Automotive, Wacker, Amazon, Volkswagen just a few miles below us — these companies are seeking communities, and they look for quality of life first, especially companies coming here from overseas," Brooks said. "They truly look at quality of life first, then they look at infrastructure, then they look at schools, then they look at other things in our communities."
Brooks praised Petitt's work on the grant and said the $500,000 in matching local money was approved by the city council members as part of the grant application.
State lawmakers also cheered the grant funding.
"The park that will result from these funds will bring the community together and provide great value to citizens and visitors alike and encourage outdoor activities," Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said in the release.
Bell, 58, is a Cleveland native. Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, also represents parts of Bradley County and Cleveland.
"This grant is tremendous news for Cleveland," Gardenhire said. "Local parks are great places for our citizens to exercise, improve their quality of life, relax and enjoy Cleveland's scenic beauty."
In a joint statement included in the release, Rep. Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, and Rep. Mark Hall, R-Cleveland, said, "This grant will go a long way in adding value to our community and creating a space for all Cleveland residents to use and enjoy. We appreciate the work of our state and local leaders to secure these funds and look forward to visiting the Candies Creek Park very soon."
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.