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New park is close to reality

‘Community Engagement Day’ to showcase features

  • Joe Hollingsworth Jr. stands on part of the South Clinton property the Hollingsworth Foundation will convert into park. - Ken Leinart

  • An artist’s rendition of the Hollingsworth Foundation’s proposed park in South Clinton. The ideas for the park are bold and creative. Hollingsworth has said he wants the park to be “aspirational” in design and an asset for the entire region. - Ken Leinart

  • The bottom left of the park, highlighted in yellow, is the meadow area that was used as a fill site for fly ash. The green includes lawn space and forests. Plans include different zones for potential river access and road access sites. A larger version of this will be at the community engagement day planned by the Hollingsworth Foundation for March 23. - Ken Leinart

If you drive out of town up Highway 25 and look to your left as you pass Summers and Son Monument Co., you’ll see the future site of a 450 acre park that will drastically change the landscape of South Clinton.

On March 23, with a rain date of March 30, the public is invited to check out the proposed plans and walk around the site from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. There will be free food trucks, activities for kids and people on site to answer questions from the public.

“It doesn’t look like much now, but it will,” said Hollingsworth Foundation Executive Director Mike Wallace as he pointed out the site on Monday. “It’s going to be something great.”

It’s long been a dream of the Hollingsworth family to contribute to a park that would improve the quality of life in Clinton, according to Joe Hollingsworth.

“We wanted this to be a component to the recent Clinton Vision and a true experience that would repeatedly attract local appreciation and some national recognition,” he said. “Additionally, we wanted it to highlight some of the local historic stories to give a texture of the community to those who enjoy the park.”

The proposed park goes from the driving range on Yarnell Road all the way down to the river, then up the hill. Around 170 acres are privately owned by the Hollingsworth Foundation, and the remaining land Wallace and Joe Hollingsworth want incorporated into the park belongs to the Tennessee Valley Authority. That land is already used as public land. The islands, too, are owned by TVA.

Wallace is in negotiations with TVA on the use of that land, but it’s a tedious process.

“There are no immediate answers with TVA,” said Wallace.

It can be a long and drawn out process, which is why Wallace knows they will celebrate a groundbreaking this year, but the exact date is undetermined.

“Not today and not Dec. 31, I can tell you that,” he laughed. “But there’s no set date yet.”

Wallace and others spoke to Clinton City Council last month about the proposed park, which would feature bike and hiking trails, lots of green space and an event center.

“During our discovery process we visited over 50 parks across the nation comparing the best and most creative ideas,” Hollingsworth explained. “Then, we followed up with a national design competition with Port Urbanism from Chicago/Philadelphia being the winner with their innovative ideas. Now, as we add other creative partners with this group, we hope to create an inspirational recreational experience, not simply a park.”

The ideas are big and bold, and while the specifics aren’t written in stone yet, Hollingsworth has a track record of making things happen. He was involved in building the Clinton High School sports complex and was the top donor for that, as well as for the Clinton Middle School gym renovations. He also led the campaign to build and run the Junior Achievement Biztown in Clinton.

The park has been a dream of Hollingsworth’s for at least 10 years, but now that he’s ready to move on it, Wallace believes it can be done quickly and with excellence.

As previously reported in The Courier News, a meadow area between the road and the river has been used over the years by the TVA to store fly ash, also known as coal ash. That area is around 40 acres and met EPA standards when it was first used as a disposal site, and continued to meet standards as it went through testing over the years, according to Wallace. But with safety concerns over fly ash in the news more frequently lately, Wallace said that they are talking internally about a brownfield program that the Tennessee Department of Conservation discussed at last month’s council meeting.

“A Brownfield program would meet the standards,” he said, “and we want to exceed those standards.”

While they haven’t decided whether they will do tests through the brownfield program or through an independent study, Wallace said testing will be done.

The Courier News will keep the community informed on the status of those tests.

To find the park on for the foundation’s Community Engagement Day, put 350 Clinch Avenue into your GPS. Take East Siding Road, just before Yarnell Road, to park.