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Norris looks to spend big to expand, upgrade all of city’s parks

Norris this month will begin applying for grants to help fund potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in parks and recreation upgrades and additions if the City Council approves a 10-year master plan that was presented during a recent workshop meeting.

The council will take up the issue during its Monday, Feb. 12, regular meeting, and is expected to authorize city staff to apply for the first round of grants from the state.

There is a Feb. 22 deadline to submit a letter of intent to apply for grants for this coming year’s available parks and recreation funding from the state Department of Environment and Conservation.

Mayor Chris Mitchell, Vice Mayor Chuck Nicholson and council member Loretta Painter were among about 30 people who attended the parks and recreation master plan workshop at the Norris Community Building on Jan. 25.

A consulting firm the city hired last year to develop the master plan was on hand to give the initial details of its efforts to devise the plan, which primarily looks to add, improve or upgrade facilities at all city parks over the next five to 10 years.

Andreas Guevara-Nadeau of Community Development Partners LLC in Knoxville presented slides detailing the proposed changes and upgrades.

They covered all city park and recreation facilities except for those in the Norris Municipal Watershed and some controlled by entities other than the city, such as the Anderson County Schools.

Amenities in the watershed, including the rifle range and various walking trails, are under control of the Norris Municipal Watershed Board, which is appointed by the City Council, but operates independently from the city’s Recreation Department.

Some other recreation facilities, such as the amphitheater and Norris Lions Club Pavilion in front of Norris Middle School, are under control of other entities, including the school.

City recreation facilities that would be scheduled for improvements, expansion or upgrades include Oak Road Park, Ridgeway Park, Eric Harold Memorial Park, Norris Commons, Creamery Park, the city gymnasium in the Community Center, and the Disc Golf Course and tennis courts adjacent to the Norris Community Building.

The tentative master plan was developed mostly from a community survey that was begun after the initial parks and recreation master plan workshop was held in mid-2023.

More swimming facilities and water activities, and new or upgraded restrooms were among the top items people asked for in the survey, Guevara-Nadeau said.

People ages 65-up were interested in more low-impact fitness options, while “everybody wants a dog park,” she told the group at the recent workshop.

Also mentioned as high priority were additional basketball and pickleball courts, more programs for senior citizens and middle school students, and more non-athletic programs, such as photography.

“I hear people asking about a horseshoe pit,” Mayor Mitchell said during the presentation.