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Church Hill may install splash pad among upgrades to Derrick Park

Jeff Bobo • Jan 1, 2020 at 8:30 AM

CHURCH HILL — Derrick Park is in for a major overhaul in 2020 with the proposed installation of several new amenities, including playground equipment, shelters, parking and the big dollar item — a new splash pad.

Funding for the splash pad will be a big hurdle because preliminary cost estimates range from $150,000 to $200,000.

The Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed upgrades to Derrick Park at its Dec. 17 meeting, and a workshop will be scheduled in early January after more concrete cost estimates for the splash pad are available.

ADA playground equipment sparks change 

Derrick Park is located along the Holston River adjacent to the western edge of the Holston Army Ammunition Plant just south of the backside of Church Hill’s Food City store.

It features walking trails, a boat ramp, three large picnic shelters, restroom facilities and a playground on the opposite side of the park from the parking area.

In November, the BMA approved the purchase of new ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) accessible playground equipment and agreed to locate that new equipment on vacant space close to the parking area where the restrooms are located.

The existing playground equipment is located on the backside of the park in an area farthest from the restrooms, and some board members suggested in November that improvements are needed at the park, including relocation of the existing playground.

Following a lengthy discussion in November, Mayor Dennis Deal appointed a committee to discuss potential changes to Derrick Park, including a new splash pad.

Committee recommends major changes

Derrick Park Committee Chairman Keith Gibson presented an aerial photo of the park to the BMA during its Dec. 17 meeting with an overlay showing the location of proposed changes.

The committee recommended relocating the old playground equipment to vacant space near the restrooms, parking lot and existing shelters — not far from where the new ADA equipment will be installed.

Under that plan, playground equipment would be more accessible and also moved away from a creek that passes through the far side of park, Gibson noted.

“That will make it a whole lot safer because I've heard people talk about having to really watch the little ones around that creek,” Gibson told the BMA. “And of course there's squirrels and who knows what else critters running around there.”

The existing playground equipment would be repaired and painted and fully restored before it’s installed at its new location.

Shelters, parking, volleyball and a stage

Changes to the parking lot would also be needed due to increased traffic created by the newly relocated playground and the splash pad. The committee recommended creating new van and small bus parking near the playground, as well as building a parking lot on the other side of the creek close to the VFW ball fields.

They also want to add two new shelters along Bucky Cooper Road near the park entrance.

In the back corner where they would remove the existing playground, the committee recommends installing a stage that could host community concerts.

“Something where if they wanted to have a musical group … if they wanted to have a singing, if they wanted to have something bring about more use of that park,” Gibson told the board.

There’s also a recommendation for installation of a volleyball court near the playgrounds, adding some additional picnic tables and new trash cans and benches.

Gibson said, “They were talking about people wanting to come there maybe at lunch and sit out in the sun.”

Splash pad options affect the cost

While the city could probably accomplish most of the park recommendations in house, the proposed splash pad will require outside help. Gibson said two vendors have already been contacted.

“The gentleman we talked to, when we told him what we were wanting, it was probably around $150,000 to $200,000 — somewhere in that neighborhood,” Gibson said. “It was less than we originally thought.”

The cost depends on the type of system the city wants. To install a tank that recirculates the water requires a pump and holding tank that increases the cost by $50,000 to $80,000. The water that is stored also has to be treated similar to a swimming pool.

But the city also has the option of direct flow system that uses water one time. The amount of water used would depend on the number of spray fixtures that are installed with the pad.

The pad would be started with a button that would spray water for a designated amount of time, so it wouldn’t use water when no one was there.

Deal noted that the sewer line pump that serves Derrick Park is already at maximum capacity. He said the water pass through system might not be feasible unless the city can dump the water directly into the river.

Gibson noted that there are still quite a few unanswered questions, and more meetings are scheduled with the splash pad company representatives.

“We told him what we wanted, and he is going to come back with some ideas,” Gibson said.

Gibson added, “We're hoping this splash pad will draw interest into the city and bring in a little (tourism) revenue maybe. … You've got to have things for some of the youth in the city.”

“Get hard numbers”

Committee member Tom Kern said, “I'd like to see us renovate the park, make it more accessible … and go ahead and start as much of this as we can now. We've got to get hard numbers on the splash pad.”

Deal suggested meeting with the street department during the upcoming workshop to discuss the park recommendations and what they think they can and can't do in house.

As for the cost, Deal said they may want to borrow money to cover the cost of Derrick Park upgrades, as well as some other needs that have arisen.

“If we get hard numbers, in my view the city may want to do a long-term loan,” Deal said. “I've been talking to (Fire Chief) Luke (Wood) and we're probably going to have to look at getting a used ladder fire truck. So we've got a lot to think about.”

Deal added, “I think the big challenge right now is to move the current (playground equipment) down there and the one we purchased.”