PHOTO: City Administrator Eric Stuckey answers a question about traffic during the Monday meeting at city hall / Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
On Monday night, citizens young and old packed into a city hall room to hear about plans for a 180-acre park in the southeast of Franklin.
The formal presentation covered two possible plans, currently being referred to as the Southeast Municipal Complex Park. The property is city-owned and is situated east of Interstate 65 and west of the Harpeth River.
As people settled into their seats, Ward 4 Alderman Margaret Martin asked the man sitting next to her what he thought of the two park plans.
“I think it’s a good idea that there is a park,” he responded. “My question is what are they going to do with Carothers?”
Many attendees expressed concern about traffic along the yet to be finished corridor during the discussion.
“I’m not against this park at all, I just think things need to be put in place to go with it,” one man said. “I don’t hear a lot of concern or questions answered about traffic.”
City Administrator Eric Stuckey pointed out the traffic study currently being done for the area. He also said that the land was originally set aside to be a wastewater facility.
“We’re in a conceptual planning stage, but we put a lot of effort into anticipating what’s going to need to happen,” Stuckey said. With Carothers Parkway, he said, the city intentionally extended it further south to make connections.
“There are a lot of elements in place to try to move as the need arises,” Stuckey said, acknowledging traffic demands. “The traffic impact of a park is probably not as great as you might think.”
At the meeting, Steve Fritts, a senior architect and the vice president of Barge Design Solutions, presented two potential concepts for the park. Fritts and his team drafted the concepts with guidance from Franklin’s 2015 Parks Comprehensive Master Plan.
Both include LED-lit, multi-use fields, pickleball, bocce ball and sand volleyball courts, a dog park, canoe launch, splash pad and playgrounds and a trail system that runs along the Harpeth. The main entrance would be off Carothers to the north, where a bridge would need to be constructed over the Harpeth River.
The main issue with the property is a that the majority of the land is either in the flood way (73 acres) or in the 100-year flood plain (69 acres). While fields can be built into the flood plain, fences and other structures cannot.
The two plans differ primarily in their fields. The first concept has more divided in the park, and thus, a greater number of parking spaces.
With no soccer or baseball fields, the city hopes to allow the Franklin Cowboys youth football organization to utilize the new fields as they have “loved to death,” as Fritts said, fields at Jim Warren Park.
Many also expressed a desire to have an inclusive and accessible park for those with special needs or disabilities.
One woman spoke about how her daughter, who has special needs, was unable to swing at a supposedly inclusive park near their Spring Hill home. Fritts assured her the new park would be able to accommodate her daughter’s needs.
Another man noted the difference between accessible and inclusive in terms of parks.
“Inclusive playgrounds means the kids are all together,” he said. “Accessible means it might meet their needs, but it’s segregated from them.”
“People are looking for an inclusive playground where any child can be with the other children and their neighbors and their sisters and their brothers,” he continued. “Those two words are not interchangeable.”
“This is a great thing for the city,” said one man, to loud applause. “Our kids need these fields.”
“I know there’s not enough money budgeted today,” Fritts said. But he noted that the park would likely be built in phases, during a 12 to 18 month construction period.
Parks Director Lisa Clayton said the city had allocated $13.1 million for the project.
Fritts and the Barge Design team will present a master concept plan to the Board of Mayor and Alderman on Tuesday, February 27.