City leaders, joined by several former officials, gathered at the end of South Elk Avenue last week for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the first phase of Fayetteville’s Greenway Project, an effort four years in the making.
“This is a big day for the City of Fayetteville, and we’re so appreciative to have this opportunity,” said City Administrator Scott Collins as he welcomed a good turnout of interested citizens and leaders, all on hand to mark the start of the Phase I project.
“This is a wonderful day, which has been a long time in the making,” said Mayor Michael Whisenant, noting that the Greenway Project was actually initiated and received funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation in 2008, but due to a poor economy, the project was not initiated and funding returned to TDOT.
“The board [Board of Mayor and Aldermen] in 2014, led by Mayor John Ed Underwood and Scott Collins, asked us for permission to go forward with a master plan,” he continued, adding that the Phase II project is funded and in the works while Phase III project funding is being pursued. “We wouldn’t be here were it not for Scott, who had the vision first, and I want to make sure that’s recognized.”
Whisenant went on to recognize that 2014 board, which, in addition to himself, included Underwood as well as then Vice Mayor Gwen Shelton and Aldermen Danny Bryant, Dorothy Small, Marty Pepper, and the late Dr. Thomas (Tom) Young, and the current board, including Vice Mayor Dorothy Small and Aldermen Jeff Alder, Tonya Allen, Danny Bryant, Donna Hartman and Rachael Martinez.
He also recognized the last Board of Mayor and Aldermen, including Aldermen Violet Harry and Anna Catherine Osteen, and former Mayor Jon Law, who he said were also heavily involved in the project.
Also recognized were representatives of TDOT’s Local Programs Development Office, including Transportation Manager Neil Hansen, Program Supervisor Lisa Dunn, Program Monitor Sarah Sutton and Program Monitor Katie Brown.
Vice Mayor Small also spoke, recalling how the project got its start in 2008, then was shelved during the recession and re-initiated in early 2014 by Underwood and the City Board at the time as the Greenway/Blueway Master Plan. Lose Design and the late David Lose were selected to conduct the master plan study.
“Also in the summer of 2014, after a community design session hosted by Lose Design, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen authorized the application for a Transportation Alternative Program to connect the downtown Fayetteville historic square to Stone Bridge Park as Phase I,” she said. “In 2015, the Local Programs Development Office of TDOT, led by Transportation Manager Neil Hansen, recommended the award of $560,928 in TDOT and Federal Highway Administration funds for the $701,160 Greenway Project.
“The grant award was approved by then Gov. Bill Haslam with support from State Rep. Pat Marsh, State Rep. Rick Tillis, and then State Sen. Jim Tracy,” she said, adding that Lose Design was subsequently selected as the project engineers with Community Development Partners serving as grant administrators.”
“I know everyone is excited about today and the groundbreaking,” said Lee Davidson, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lose Design. “I just told Scott a few minutes ago I’ll get a lot more excited when we get to snap that ribbon and everybody gets to actually use it.”
Noting that the project has had some challenges, he said R.J. Watkins and Son will be on site Aug. 19 to begin moving dirt, and then within six months, the community here will have a usable greenway.
“I hope to see a lot of people on this greenway,” he added. “I’ve never seen a greenway that wasn’t a success, and I don’t imagine there will be any problem with this one – people will be using it constantly.”
Special appreciation was also expressed to Small & Small Oil and Sequatchie Concrete for granting easements to allow the Greenway to cross their properties, as well as to former Parks and Recreation Director Rickey Honey and current Director Chris Mitchell.
Ultimately, the Greenway/Blueway Master Plan is aimed at connecting each of the city’s parks.
Phase I will connect the square with Stone Bridge Park via a walkway, while Phase II calls for a pedestrian bridge over the Elk River, connecting the Phase I project with the Camp Blount Historical Site and the Huntsville Highway shopping district. Phase III is expected to include a river walk from the pedestrian bridge around the perimeter of Camp Blount.