The recreation commission met on Thursday, Feb. 21 to discuss mural progress and grant applications.
On the art side of things, Scott van Velsor and Kristin Luna of DMA-events approached the commission with the idea of installing sport-themed murals featuring Looney Toons characters such as Bugs Bunny on the dugouts facing the Little Duck River Greenway and first base. The artist will be local and has not been revealed yet.
The commission unanimously approved the idea. The murals will be added to the future art walk, which is a long-term goal of the commission to get art along the greenway after it gets extended to the Bonnaroo Farm. The commission hopes adding art increase foot traffic and encourage people to get active.
“Even with the Eel, when that came out, I saw people come down here and walking purposefully wanting to see that,” said Parks and Recreation Director Bonnie Gamble. “This is what’s unique about our project, our art walk, is that you can see murals in Nashville or Murfreesboro, but you can see them by car. This, you’ve got to walk. That gets people physically active.”
The greenway extension is in primary phases of planning – Gamble hopes to get a survey done in the coming week to determine the placement of the path.
Gamble attended Tennessee Department of Transportation training to get up to date with all the steps required for this project.
“You have to go through so many steps,” she explained. “You can’t even talk to land owners about anything until you’ve got your environmental done, you’ve got your survey design done and approved, then you can go talk to them. There’s a specific way you have to offer them money and all that kind of stuff.”
The soccer parks LPR grant upgrades, for the new lighting, playground and bathrooms, is moving along. Gamble expects work to begin on that project during the next fiscal year, which begins in July.
Gamble is working on applying for a couple grants. The first is a $450,000 Diabetes Foundation grant, delivered in increments of $150K for years.
The recreation commission’s idea for this application would be to ask the county and city school systems to turn the Riverview Alternative School site over to the City of the Manchester. The recreation commission would then use the money to turn the site into a pocket park and would renovate the existing building so it could be used for their after school program, a farmers’ market, the Recreation Complex’s bike program and more.
“It would be a nice investment over there to have a little park,’ Gamble said.
Gamble later added, as is, the school is “a wasted resource. But it’s going to be a long shot just because they’re going to say ‘well, we’ve given Manchester so much money,’ they probably would rather have them in the county because rural.”
Manchester City Schools Director of Coordinated School Health Leslie Brasfield explained it could open opportunities for the schools to take a day trip to the building and park as well.
““With the greenway going there, a day field trip for our kids at College Street or even Westwood. I think that’s wasted, just sitting there,” Brasfield said.
Because the greenway extension will go behind the Riverview School, Gamble sees this area will pick up in foot traffic, especially if they install a trailhead to allow bikes to access the extension’s bike lane. Once complete, the greenway extension will be 12-feet wide to accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic.
“If we do this, this is a help to, maybe not so much the city schools because they don’t use it, but county schools, what are you going to do with that building? Somebody’s got to get a plan, whether it’s demolishing or whatever,” Gamble said.
The commission approved the idea to approach the director of both school systems with the idea and to bring it to the boards of education.
Gamble’s second idea, which was dropped in favor of Riverview School, was to install a greenway trailhead and playground in rural Coffee County near the Bonnaroo Farm.
The same foundation is also offering a two-year $30K grant. For this, the recreation complex would use it to create an outdoor experience club, similar to its bike club, as well as expand the healthy concessions into the school system.
The final grant is the Access to Health, formerly the Commit to Health. If successful, Gamble will use the $20K-25K to purchase a 25-passenger bus to transport more students to the recreation complex’s after school program.