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Parks

A bit of vision

Cedar Hill ParkNow that the deadline for answers to the Progress PAC’s questions has passed (and it’s no longer possible for candidates to copy off each other’s papers), I’ll post the responses that I provided to their questions. These were interesting questions — you don’t have to be a Chamber member to be interested in candidates’ answers.

Question 1: Please explain your vision for the City of Oak Ridge for the next 5 years.

My response: Five years from now I want Oak Ridge to be recognized as one of the most desirable residential communities (ideally, the single most desirable community) in the Knoxville metropolitan area. Attainment of this vision will require significant progress in retail development, housing/neighborhood quality, and effective marketing of the community. It also requires maintaining and enhancing the quality of our schools, public services and amenities, as well as minimizing increases in residential property taxes.

An additional vision that doesn’t fold easily into the above: I want the Manhattan Project National Historic Park to be up and running, with national park logos on highway signs leading into Oak Ridge, a revitalized AMSE that is successfully transitioning to nonprofit operation independent from DOE, regular tours (paid for by visitor fees) of Manhattan Project historic facilities, and increased visitor recreational access to federal lands (such as the Wheat community and Freels Bend) that represent the historical landscape where the Manhattan Project was sited.

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The Friendship Bell is special

20100926173814 The International Friendship Bell in A.K. Bissell Park is special. It’s unique, it has substantial aesthetic value, it symbolizes principles (peace and friendship) that everyone ought to embrace, and it is quintessentially Oak Ridge. If anything erected in the city during the decades I’ve lived here deserves to be revered in the future as a historic landmark, it’s the bell and the structure that houses it.

I was very disappointed by the news that the wooden bell structure had deteriorated and was no longer safe. The bell will be “out of commission” for some time — until the community rebuilds its support structure. I am one of the many people who believe that the structure should be rebuilt according to the original aesthetic design, but with structural members that will not succumb when exposed to the elements. Like the bell itself, which is decorated with images of both Japan and Tennessee, the structure is not purely Japanese in its design — it’s a blend of Japan and Tennessee. Architect Jon Coddington designed the bell house to incorporate elements of traditional temples in Japan and traditional cantilever barns in Tennessee. The blend of Tennessee with Japan in the structure’s design emphasized the bell as a symbol of international friendship — and the design was an important element of the campaign to dispel fears of local residents who saw the bell as a Buddhist religious item or as some sort of “apology” to Japan for Oak Ridge’s role in the Hiroshima bombing. I hope that the original structure can be reassembled around (and disguise) a rugged steel frame that can support the bell for many decades to come.

This is an “interesting” issue for city government. The bell was cast and the structure was built with private donations (here and in Japan), and it was placed on public land as a gift to the city. That makes it a city responsibility now, although the original donors still have a strong sense of ownership. I didn’t donate to the bell when it was created (I was a lot younger then and hadn’t lived in Oak Ridge very long — and this was a project of an older generation of Oak Ridgers), but I will happily donate now to the structure’s restoration because I appreciate the bell’s meaning and value. The bell housing can’t be restored without the help of local donors, but it may not be necessary to find donors to cover the whole cost. I was pleased to see that city government and some citizens with a particular interest in the bell have been creative in seeking additional funds and have discovered a grant-making foundation that looks like an excellent prospect for assisting our community with restoring the bell. The Japanese World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund awards matching grants for projects around the world that are related to Japan and that promote international mutual understanding. At Monday evening’s City Council meeting it was reported that it probably is too late to apply for this year’s round of grants, but Oak Ridge should be an excellent candidate for a grant next year.

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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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Best wishes to Josh Collins

It looks like it’s time to start congratulating Josh Collins on his retirement — he has announced that he’s retiring on October 1 after almost 30 years leading the Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Department.

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PetSafe Big Turtle Dog Park is open

PetSafe Big Turtle Dog Park dedicationA nice event on Monday — the dedication of the PetSafe Big Turtle Dog Park at Big Turtle Park in west Oak Ridge.

Dog owners who have been impatient for a local dog park are being rewarded for their wait, as this is a premier-quality dog park. Radio Systems Corporation (PetSafe) gave the city $100,000 for development of a really nice dog park, and the layout and design have been informed by the “lessons learned” in other communities that opened dog parks earlier.

I feel I can take a bit of credit for this project, because I initiated the effort (as a Council member) to get City Council to pass a resolution allowing Oak Ridge to pursue a PetSafe grant through an online grants competition that was being conducted on Facebook. The city didn’t win that competition, but the staff was able to use that resolution as authorization when an opportunity arose with PetSafe, which has its headquarters in west Knoxville.

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Spring cleaning

Litter picker-uppers earlier this springPlenty of spring cleaning is going on in the community (and I  need to do some at my house, too).

Melton Lake Cleanup. Volunteers are needed on Saturday, March 23 (rain date March 30) to pick up trash on the shores of Melton Lake. TVA has lowered the lake level for the occasion. Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary, Greenways Oak Ridge, and Keep Anderson County Beautiful  are partnering for the event. Assemble at the new pavilion in Melton Lake Park (Oak Ridge) at 9:00 AM, wear sturdy shoes, and bring work gloves.  The City is supplying the trash bags.

Log your litter collection activity for the Great American Cleanup. The months of March through May are the Keep America Beautiful Great American Cleanup. Citizens who pick up litter and trash around the community or on the lakefront are urged to go to the Keep Anderson County Beautiful website to log your hours of effort and pounds of litter picked up. Many of us pick up litter when we are out walking. If you tell KACB about your efforts, we (I’m on the board) will tell the world (including the state and national organization, as well as Anderson County government) about the amount of work  that volunteers have done on behalf of the community. I’ve logged 27.5 pounds of litter (that was actual weight, but many people estimate) already this spring, just in my own neighborhood.

Garlic mustard pull and wildflower walk. See native wildflowers and help eradicate an invasive weed on April 6 on the Wildflower Greenway behind the Rolling Hills Apartments (formerly Garden Apartments).  This annual event is sponsored by Greenways Oak Ridge and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning.

Household Hazardous Waste. Saturday, April 13, 2013, from 9 am to 2 pm, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Anderson County Solid Waste Management will conduct the county’s once-a-year Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event at the Oak Ridge Public Works Building at (100 Woodbury Lane in Oak Ridge, located behind the K-Mart/Kroger shopping center).

This is for waste generated by residents — no commercial or agribusiness waste will be accepted. Wastes they will accept include household cleaners, adhesives, paint removers, herbicides, pesticides, solvents, antifreeze, oil additives, rechargeable batteries, lithium batteries, pool chemicals, an similar items. Don’t bring paint, electronics, empty containers, medical waste, explosives, radioactive materials, or alkaline batteries. (Paint and electronics are accepted year round at Anderson County’s Blockhouse Valley Rd. facility; and alkaline batteries can go in regular trash.) It’s OK to bring household hazardous waste for your friends and relatives who cannot attend.

Contact Anderson County Solid Waste at (865) 463-6845 for more information. The Household Hazardous Waste Mobile Collection Service was established by the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 to remedy improper disposal and to educate the public. This service is paid for by the Solid Waste Management Fund, which receives its revenue from a surcharge of tipping fees from Tennessee landfills and incinerators and from the $1.35 fee on each new tire sold at retail in Tennessee.

City Trash and Brush Pickups. Finally, the city of Oak Ridge spring trash pickup starts April 1, 2013, followed by brush pickup starting April 29. (Don’t mix trash with brush.)  Details and the trash pickup schedule are on the city website. Trash collection starts in Burnham Woods, followed by Woodland and the city’s southeastern quadrant in the first week, and finishes up in the west end of the city in week number 4.

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