Forked Deer River Park construction underway

Saturday, November 16, 2019
Construction at the Forked Deer River Park, which Dyersburg Mayor John Holden has said would ‘change the face of Dyersburg’, is currently ongoing. The river park project came to life when the City of Dyersburg announced it had been awarded $7.4 million in National Disaster Resiliency Grants in March 2016, with $4.4 million being used for parks and recreation. Years in the making, the Forked Deer River Park will be completed by the end of the year.
State Gazette photos/ Brandon Hutcheson

BRANDON HUTCHESON

bhutcheson@stategazette.com

In March 2016, the City of Dyersburg announced they had been awarded $7.4 million in National Disaster Resiliency Grants. Of the money awarded, $4.4 million was designated for Parks and Recreation with the remaining $3 million to be used in sewer infrastructure rehabilitation. The NDR grant, along with other grants the City has secured over recent years, has contributed to the creation of the Forked Deer River Park project.

On June 11, 2019, the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Forked Deer River Park was held with City of Dyersburg officials, Tennessee Economic and Community Development (ECD) Rural Development staff, Dyersburg/ Dyer County Chamber of Commerce officials and board members, and downtown business owners in attendance.

New signage for the Forked Deer River Park has been installed at the Clark Ave. entrance. Signage will also be installed on Church and South Main.

During the ceremony, Dyersburg Mayor John Holden stated he believed the project would ‘change the face of Dyersburg’.

Since June, the City has awarded bids and construction has begun to the Forked Deer River Park. The general contractor on the river park project is Glenn Still Contractors with all grading and paving being performed by Ford Construction.

Though paving is only days away, streetscaping along Cedar, Church, and Clark has been completed.

Dyersburg Construction Inspector Scott Ball has been instrumental in the Forked Deer River Park project from the beginning. Here, Ball poses with the Reagan Levee Greenway trail sign. The trail runs from South Main and throughout the river park, before tying into the one-mile greenway trail along Reagan Levee.

“Church and Clark will be the main entrances to the river park. There will be signage on Clark, Church, and South Main,” said Dyersburg Construction Inspector and Storm Water Manager Scott Ball. “We have new sidewalk access from Cedar on Church. Down through there, between the curb and the sidewalk, it’ll all be landscaped. We also put in a new entrance to the farmers market and all new sidewalks around it. The new road around the farmers market is 24 ft. wide. We also put in a new retaining wall behind the farmers market.”

Ball noted there will be 2 parking lots, the main lot east of the farmers market, along with the second lot south of the market. There will be over 100 parking spaces available.

Crews began assembling a splash pad last month, which will be ready in time for next year (above). Below, is an engineering rendering of playground equipment that will be installed at the river park. Ball noted the equipment is ADA compliant.

What has generated much community excitement are the amenities the Forked Deer River Park will have to offer, such as a splash pad, playground equipment, the River Center event building, a walking trail, and the downtown dog park, the latter which opened last year.

The installation of the splash pad, located east of the farmers market, began last month and will be ready for use during next year’s summer days.

“They may be hard to see unless you get up close, but there are some gold medallions embedded in the spray pad that will spray water up, along with the other features of the pad,” said Ball. “There are about a dozen or so scattered around. When it’s all up, it’s pretty impressive.”

Beside the spray pad, a new playground will soon be installed. Ball mentioned the equipment would be ADA compliant and contain a rubberized surface.

“Everything we’re putting in now we’re trying to put ADA equipment to it,” he said.

Ball noted the Dyersburg Dog Park has been utilized well since opening last year. He added the dog park has sold engraved bricks that will be placed at the dog park’s entrance once the heavier construction at the river park is completed.

The River Center Building has been completed and houses restrooms, showers, sink and counter space inside with a picnic area and exterior restrooms outside. Like the pavilions under the City’s Parks and Recreation department, the River Center Building will be available to rent for parties, receptions, and events.

The River Center Building, located to the west of the farmers market building has been completed, largely thanks to a tourism grant secured by the City.

“This is a nice feature for the Forked Deer River Park. You can open it up when there’s something going on down here. Inside we’ve got a couple of high-top tables, and we’re going to put in some ceiling fans. There’s also a sink, counter space, and restrooms. There is a covered picnic area outside with tables.”

Ball mentioned there has been an idea to have photos inside the river center depicting the Dyersburg of yesteryear to the Dyersburg of today.

“We were thinking of maybe having a time capsule of pictures. Everything started here on the river – maybe have pictures from then until now,” Ball said. “Regardless of what we do, I told the mayor, I would like to reach out to the public and see and hear their ideas.”

The River Center Building also contains exterior restrooms as well as indoor and outdoor showers.

“If we have a mud run or something like that one day, then those will be available,” he added.

Just like other Parks and Recreation pavilions, the River Center Building will also be available to rent for birthday parties, receptions, and events.

A view from behind the farmers marked looking northeast prior to construction (above, April 2019) and since the installation of a retaining wall (below, November 2019).

“There’s going to be an 8-ft. paved walking trail that’s going to start at South Main, the east entrance, and come alongside the dog park, playground, spray pad, and farmers market. There will be parking curbs put in where the trail runs along the [main] parking lot so no one can pull up on the trail itself,” said Ball.

After going around the farmers market, the trail branches off and begins to follow the Forked Deer River before continuing along the Reagan Levee.

Ball mentioned there would be a gravel parking lot located west of the River Center Building where the trail ties into the Reagan Levee Greenway.

The greenway trail is approximately 1 mile in length and continues following the Forked Deer River westward. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail.

A view from behind the farmers marked looking northeast. Above, during April 2019, dirt work is being conducted. Below, during November 2019, Ford Construction nears completion of grading the parking area south of the farmers market.

“In the future during this time of year, as we keep this maintained, if someone wants to pull into that gravel parking lot, unload their horse, they could ride their horses along the greenway. There is an abundance of wildlife that can be seen [along the greenway] – turkey and deer. In the wintertime, there is quite a bit of waterfowl that stay back there.”

Along the greenway levee trail, Ball mentioned the City installed 14 acres of reconstructed wetland, on City-owned property, last year.

“We planted 250 native trees kind of letting it go back to nature as part of a supplemental environmental plan for TDEC,” Ball explained.

With all of the amenities and features at the Forked Deer River Park, Ball added a new security system that would cover the entire park would also be installed.

Landscaping and streetscaping have also been conducted at the river park.

As for future plans for the river park, Ball mentioned the City will continue to apply for grants to further enhance the park.

“Our future plans, we intend to apply for future grants to put restrooms and a shade structure [near the splash pad/ playground area],” stated Ball. “That way the parents can sit under the shade structure and see their kids at the splash pad or playground.”

The open space between the River Center Building and the farmers markets is yet to be determined as well. Ideas of a second shade structure pavilion and an amphitheater have been discussed, as well as leaving it as an open grass area for play.

The Forked Deer River Park is set for completion by the end of December 2019 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony occurring in spring of 2020. The remaining projects, such as the improvements in South Dyersburg, must be completed by 2021 due to the stipulations of the grant.

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