published Monday, February 21st, 2011

Coops Creek Greenway project takes off

DUNLAP, Tenn. — A pedestrian greenway project in the works for the past few years and funded in the fall finally has gained some legs.

Phase I of the Coops Creek Greenway is the start of a five-mile walkway that will run through town, Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land said.

"We are connecting the north and south sides of town across Coops Creek," Land said. "Now, regardless which side you're on, it's very dangerous to cross the creek."

Now people have only two ways to cross -- the automobile bridges on Rankin Avenue and Main Street. Pedestrians crossing either bridge must walk on the road or on a narrow strip of concrete at the edge that is not a real sidewalk.

The city is funding the $130,000 first phase largely through a $104,097 enhancement grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, officials said. The city's part is about $26,000.

Land said city officials have discussed an ongoing effort to commit $20,000 each year to combine with grant funding to continue each phase.

The combined greenway and downtown streetscape projects could include work under the Safe Routes to School program, which also qualifies for grant funding, he said.

The potential for injury to pedestrians drove resident Dan Shell to approach the city in 2007 with the idea of reviving past walkway efforts, but the recession forced the project to the back burner until recently.

"I am thrilled to death with seeing the walkway going in, but now the initial objective to having a bridge across Coops Creek is still before us, and we need to continue on with that to resolve the vehicular and pedestrian conflicts," Shell said.

He understands, though, the walkway must come before the bridges.

"I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he laughed.

The idea isn't so popular with everyone, though.

Main Street resident Carol Gaddy's property borders Coops Creek where it intersects with Main. She has contended since the idea was pitched in 2007 that, while a greenway could be beautiful, the project could worsen flooding problems that already are eating away at her property.

Gaddy could not be reached for comment for this story. But officials said that after she wouldn't agree to the project crossing her property, the design was routed around it.

Ben Farmer, of the design firm Farmer & Associates, says phase I will be about 1,100 feet. It will run from the intersection of Rankin Avenue and Church Street to Spring Street, then turn south for a block. The project includes 10 phases. The firm's design fee is 10 percent of the total project cost.

There are still some hoops to jump through for the first phase, Farmer said.

"We've got a bid date of August, and we'll be wrapped up by December," he said.

"There's a couple of months of moving through the process. The public will have a chance to review the drawings later this year at a public meeting," he said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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