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CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The city on Friday bought about 30 acres at the former Rolling Hills Golf Course that will be used to mitigate wetlands displaced by the new city airport in the Tasso community.

The mitigation will turn the site on Freewill Road into a parklike setting with a marshland, Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll told members of the Municipal Airport Authority Board on Friday. The city paid $329,000 for the land. The cost of the project isn't known because the work will be done by city employees.

Authority Chairwoman Lynn DeVault said, "Hopefully, we will have the mitigation site up and looking more like a park in spring."

The airport site at Tasso included a wetland that will be destroyed by construction. Federal rules require a wetland of similar size be created to replace that one. It will be similar to another wetland area near Home Depot on the Mouse Creek greenway.

A small area around the marshland will be mowed and become a walking path for the Freewill Road area, County Engineer Jonathan Jobe said, but Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation does not allow mowing in the wetland itself.

Authority members also were told of preparations for a March hearing before the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board. Airport opponents have filed an appeal to permits granted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Meanwhile, Ms. DeVault said, a construction contract has been signed with Wright Brothers Construction and site work is set to begin in March.

The Tasso airport is planned to replace Cleveland's existing airport, Hardwick Field, which is on Lee Highway north of the city.

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