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Clark Center Park

CarbideparkpicnicareaThe future of Carbide Park (officially Clark Center Recreation Area) is on the city agenda right now.

It’s clear why DOE wants to get out of the business of running a community park, and it makes sense that they are offering it to the city of Oak Ridge. It’s a wonderful public recreation resource — 80 acres on Melton Hill Lake, with boat launches, picnic areas, ball fields, swimming area, fishing pier, and access to the Gallaher Bend Greenway. This is an asset that can’t be allowed to slip away. I believe it needs to remain as a public park — and the city needs to say “yes” to DOE. Trouble is that the city will face the same issues of cost and liability that DOE wants to avoid. There’s no room in our city budget to take on new obligations.

When I spoke at the August 25 public meeting, I commented that this is a regional asset, not just a local park, so the city should not “go it alone” in running it. The region should help support its operation and maintenance — maybe through user fees or an annual membership (much like the old days, when use was limited to employees of the federal agency and Union Carbide). It’s costly to hire people to collect fees, though, but there may be a way to implement electronic access controls (think EZ-Pass). I also recommended that DOE should share some of the money it will save by giving away the park with the city. A chunk of the $300,000/year that the federal government spends yearly to run the park would help the city take on this new responsibility — and DOE would still be saving money. There were many good ideas presented at the city’s public meeting on the park (a model for how a public meeting should run — an unstructured opportunity where people had an open-ended invitation to make comments). I think we can make this work — but the community will need to recognize that the taxpayers of Oak Ridge can’t be asked to pay the full cost of a quality public recreation resource that benefits the entire region.

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  1. Ellen Smith says:

    There’s been lively discussion of this item over on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/smithellen Below are some highlights of the good ideas people have posted there:

    Brad Johnson – Softball, kickball, fishing tournament, camping, swimming. Food vendors, rentals, firewood, and ice are all money making opportunities. There are plenty more but these are what jumped out at me.

    Marlene Myers – Spent the afternoon there today – hadn’t been in a few years. What a jewel – it would be a shame to lose such a wonderful asset in our city. Is it time for The Friends of Clark Center Park?

    Brad Johnson – Give me $45K a year, a couple of lawnmowers, shovel, and rake. I’ll take care of it and save the city $250K a year. Done.

    James Brent: I swim there from May through mid-October. It’s a great asset for the city.

    Ellen Smith: An ice-vending machine (primarily for boaters and fisherfolk) is one of the best money-making ideas I’ve heard (I heard it first from James Lewis, but Brad Johnson also deserves credit). It’s a winner because there’s an obvious market for ice out there and because these machines don’t require full-time human attendants. One of the best ideas that I heard at the August 25th meeting was having a resident manager living onsite, like the county has at Anderson County Park. It sounds like Brad is applying for the job!

    Margot Myers Spore: A campground would be so great.

    Donna Kridelbaugh: A daily fee would be a good option like they have at some state parks (at least the state parks in Missouri where I am from). You just set up some boxes and have envelopes with pencils and put a suggested daily fee like $2. There is no enforcement so that people aren’t kicked out if they don’t pay it but it’s an easy way to generate funds from those people who will pay for the visit.

    Ellen Smith – A number of people have suggested restoring camping at Clark Center Park. I have the impression that the old campsites there got converted to picnic sites.

    Brad Johnson: A small campground would be great. We do weekend trips to either Norris or Cove Lake many times throughout the year with our little camper. Clark park has almost the same setup as both of those.

    If I’ve got to be a resident manager, so be it.

    Ellen Smith – I expect you will have some competition for that resident manager job.

    Bill Johnston – The problem with a campground is the need for sufficient scale to support oversight and maintenance. If it is open all year, someone will have to provide oversight even when there are few or no campers. If open seasonally, the manager will be part-time. If there are only a few spaces, the cost to camp will be higher to support the oversight. If there are many spaces, the park loses the appeal to citizens that we are trying to keep. The campground is an option that requires additional analysis, because it is surely easier said than done.

    Nancy England – When the kids were little, we used to camp there, sleeping bags and cooler style. It was wonderful that if it started raining cats-n-dogs, we could get home within a few minutes. We were really sad when camping was dropped.

    Ellen Smith – Do you recall when camping was dropped, Nancy? I believe it was before I got to Oak Ridge in 1981.

    Peter Scheffler – If the Park is too small to have enough paying activities to be sustainable, DOE should transfer enough land for what is needed. Or the entire three bends should be transferred as a state park or as part of the proposed Manhattan Project National Park.

    Nancy England – We camped there when the kids were in elementary school, maybe up through early 70s. Good friends with kids the same ages joined us frequently and brought a canoe. The kids learned to bob a canoe and we purposely swamped the canoe so they could learn how to deal with it, in fairly shallow water and right where we could jump in if necessary (never was!). Great memories.

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