By JOHN McBRYDE
The Park at Harlinsdale Farm is indeed considered a treasure for the city of Franklin, which purchased the former horse farm in 2004 and opened it to the public in 2007.
Come September, it will be the site of the fifth annual Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival. Its Tractor Supply Co. Arena hosts a good number of equestrian events during the warmer months, including polo matches and horse shows of all kinds. And hardly a day goes by when dogs aren’t bounding through the wide-open spaces of the dog park that opened there a few years ago.
And for those who know the park best, it could be so much more.
“We’re simply saying, let’s try and make something great and let’s do it together,” said Dr. Monty McInturff, longtime veterinarian who was speaking on behalf of Friends of Franklin Parks at the most recent work session of the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “Let’s take this and roll it into the next project and the next project, so the Harlinsdale campus is the most prestigious park in the state of Tennessee. It could easily happen if we stop thinking about it and simply do it.”
McInturff had joined Friends of Franklin Park Executive Director Torrey Barnhill and board President Adam Ballash as Lisa Clayton, director of Franklin Parks and Recreation, presented an update to the park’s master plan that gives more specifics on how Harlinsdale can be preserved and can ultimately bring in more events and revenue.
The plan will be presented at Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, where aldermen will vote to approve the concept, according to Clayton.
“Then after that we will move forward to do an amendment to the conservation easement, because the existing master plan that was done over 10 years ago had the overarching scope of the property and how it should be utilized,” she said. “This is an amendment to that plan as it gets into specific areas.”
Working with the Tuck-Hinton architectural firm, the city of Franklin has developed an extensive plan that will present Harlinsdale with a programming vision and revenue opportunities to support the park and help tell its history. It focuses on physical upgrades, renovations and additions to the several structures throughout the property.
Estimated cost of the full plan — which includes renovation of the main barn, restoration of the historic Hayes House, and the complete overhaul of the abandoned power station, among other projects — is $9 million.
To help get the ball rolling, Friends of Franklin Parks has pledged $300,000 toward bringing new life to the main barn, an amount McInturff said demonstrates the urgency to move forward.
“Right down the street … is a potential fire hazard right now and we need to preserve it,” McInturff said to aldermen. “What is our motivation? It’s simple. This town deserves this iconic barn, actually the most historic barn in the state of Tennessee, I would argue. It’s on the historic preservation list. It’s one of the most iconic pieces of our town. It needs help. We want to help. And we don’t’ want to help later, we want to help now. So a $300,000 pledge says let’s roll up our sleeves together and make this happen.”
Barnhill agreed the reset of Harlinsdale is critical.
“We’re very, very excited,” she said. “We’ve been talking and planning for this for the Harlinsdale community and volunteers and our board for a long time. We just feel like we’re one step closer.”