published Monday, January 13th, 2014

Hamilton County kicks up work on Tennessee Riverwalk

Planning to extend the Tennessee Riverwalk from near the Springhill Suites at Ross's Landing to St. Elmo, Hamilton County commissioners are working to lease property in time for the project to qualify for grant funding.
Planning to extend the Tennessee Riverwalk from near the Springhill Suites at Ross's Landing to St. Elmo, Hamilton County commissioners are working to lease property in time for the project to qualify for grant funding.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Residents hoping to stroll part of the Tennessee Riverwalk today will have to make other plans, according to Hamilton County officials.

The section of the trail connecting the Chickamauga Dam to the Hubert Fry Center will be closed over the next several days for maintenance, county spokesman Mike Dunne said Friday.

Meanwhile, county commissioners are expected to vote Wednesday whether to grab the last few pieces of land the county needs to complete its current phase of the Riverwalk.

In two resolutions, commissioners will vote on a 30-year lease and two license agreements with Norfolk Southern Railway to get access to land the county needs for the Riverwalk extension to St. Elmo.

The lease will be for $4,200 a year, half of which is expected to be paid by Chattanooga.

Todd Leamon, county public works administrator, said the county would rather buy the property outright. But to meet a March 3 grant deadline that requires construction projects for the Riverwalk project to be approved for bidding, the lease was more expeditious. He said buying the property could happen in the future.

The county also would have to pay Norfolk Southern $515,638 over 30 years for rights-of-way over railway tracks on the property. Eighty percent of that would come from federal funds through the Tennessee Department of Transportation and 20 percent would come from private funding, according to resolution documents.

The county also needs to enter two easements with PSC Metals for $167,175, an easement with the city of Chattanooga at no cost and a $30,000 easement with CSX Transportation to secure the rest of the land. All those easements would be covered by the same split of grant money and private funds.

That will be all the property the county needs to extend the Riverwalk from Ross’s Landing to Middle Street in St. Elmo.

Leamon said that as long as the properties are acquired Wednesday, construction can start by March 3.

“We are required to start construction this spring. We’ve got a [grant] obligation date to make sure we get everything finalized for bidding,” Leamon said.

There will be more deadlines, but Leamon said the 18-month construction schedule will give the county plenty of time.

The next phase of the Riverwalk will run from Middle Street in St. Elmo to the Incline Railway. At this point, that phase is in the schematics and fundraising phase, Leamon said.

“There’s a possibility that we could start that second segment while we are still under construction on the current segment,” Leamon said. “That will just depend on how things go.”

Rick Wood, the Tennessee director for the Trust for Public Land, which oversees the Riverwalk initiative, said the next few segments of the Riverwalk will be big boons for the community.

“It’s becoming more of a lifestyle. When you make investments in parks and these alternate transportation corridors, the investment pays off,” Wood said. “When parks are well maintained and well designed, research shows people use parks more often and property values around those parks increase.”

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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