|Bridge won't be saved
The community’s attempt to save the J. Carmichael Greer Bridge atop Fort Loudoun Dam has failed, but now local officials have shifted gears in hopes of utilizing land around the new bridge for public recreational use.
“What we’re looking to do is to take the properties that now are not being utilized at all and convert those into a walking trail, bike trail, recreation area,” state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, said. “We have a plan that we proposed to (Tennessee Valley Authority), but I’ve not been authorized to talk about that yet. ... There’s some exciting alternatives, but Jimmy’s not happy about (losing the Save the Bridge project) at all. The bridge project was the best option.
“It is what we worked for, it was we had hoped for, it’s what we planned for, raised money, had multiple meetings for,” he added. “I sound like a crybaby, but it’s still disappointing to think about it.”
A last-ditch effort was considered earlier this year for the Save the Bridge project, which Matlock said if achieved would have been “one for the ages.” He said officials considered amending the federal budget in Washington, D.C., which was called the “nuclear option.” The amendment was not made for fear it might “sour relationships with TVA and ultimately cost more goodwill to the community and the region than we would win.”
Demolition of the old bridge is projected to take place July 7-Oct. 26 per the contractor’s current schedule, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said.
TVA expressed interest in using land around the new bridge for public recreational use. Ideas were discussed at a recent Lenoir City Committee of 100 meeting.
“I really think there’s going to be some things come out of the bridge,” Matlock said. “What appears to be maybe a really disappointing decision from TVA has led to them to be open to some ideas that really came from Clayton (Pangle) of some plans that I’m excited about.”
There are 1,400 acres of TVA property associated with the Tellico and Fort Loudoun dam reservations, TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said. Some property is already in use, such as Lenoir City Park.
“We have not picked out any particular spots, but there are three kind of tracks of land that are currently not being used for traditional recreation purposes that would be near the abutment, the Lenoir City side of the abutment to the bridge. Those would be the most logical places if we’re trying to figure out a way to connect say the existing Lenoir City Park over to the new bridge location,” Hopson said. “There is nothing firm at this point. That’s the reason why we simply had a discussion with the Committee of 100, broached some of the ideas but we’re not going to put anything on or take anything off the table at this point.”
Hopes are to use the new bridge as a connector between the three tracts, but Lenoir City Committee of 100 member Clayton Pangle said any considerations will have to be made after the bridge is completed.
“The idea would be to still create a park-like setting with a linear pedestrian access way being able to be used to connect all three areas, tie into your existing plan trail networks,” Pangle said.
Parties involved will need to agree upon a memorandum of understanding, Pangle said, noting it includes Lenoir City, TVA, Committee of 100 and Tellico Reservoir Development Agency. The memorandum doesn’t commit the parties, but serves as an agreement to move forward with discussions.
“It’s going to be some neat stuff that will be a multi-year project,” Matlock said. “It won’t happen in one or two years. ... It’s going to be a multi-, quasi-government partnership, but TVA’s basically given it their blessing and some resources. We think it’s going to be a reality.”
If all parties agree on the drafted memorandum, Hopson said public comment will be considered on land use of three areas in the “immediate vicinity” of the new U.S. Highway 321 bridge for commercial recreation and/or public recreation purposes. Concept drawings will then be shared for public comment. Estimations are the planning process will take at least a year, he said.
“The idea is to move forward, but you’d have a bunch of steps from all parties getting the thing, getting the memorandum of understanding just off the ground, and then after it’s signed off on then you’d start with your public input process and then you would reach out and work toward a total concept picture,” Pangle said. “I think the commonality of these land areas is that they’re owned by TVA, but as this unfolds it might be through easements or other things that are worked on going forward with TVA and with the city and with TRDA.
“But if you look at all the area — you drew a circle on everything that would be worked on in all three land areas, then I think one of the ways to view it is a park-like setting connected together by pedestrian access way,” he added.