Port Royal Park within months of completion

Port Royal Park within months of completion

Spring Hill Parks and Recreation director Kevin Fischer credits cooperative city leaders and active input from the public with enabling construction to begin earlier this year on the new Port Royal Park and splash pad.

Spring Hill Parks and Recreation director Kevin Fischer credits cooperative city leaders and active input from the public with enabling construction to begin earlier this year on the new Port Royal Park and splash pad.

“We have several folks in office now who see the parks as one of their political platforms,†Fischer said. “Hearing lots of input and ideas from the public at city meetings was also a big help in getting this done.â€

The projected 300-day build should be completed by late fall or early winter, Fischer said. Fulfillment of that time table would allow the city to make a short test run of the park, including the splash pad, in the fall before winterizing as cold weather hits.

“Who knows? We just might let some brave souls try out the splash pad in the cold winter weather. If so, I’ll be the first one out there trying it. But it will definitely be ready for full operation in 2015,†Fischer said.

Fischer seems relieved that the project is happening after several years of effort on his part and that of several other city leaders, including Alderman Kayce Williams and Mayor Rick Graham.

“We’ve owned the land [on Port Royal Road] for seven or eight years now,†Fischer said. “To build a park there was one of the very first things I wanted to get done when I became director [in 2005]. It’s been listed for years as well in the city’s capital improvements budget, but there have been any number of obstacles. I’ve made many designs and proposed my own site plans but what was needed was a professional plan. Mayor Graham was on board with this idea from day one. He’s been one of the most gung-ho supporters helping it to happen. And Alderman Williams, who is also on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, was another big supporter for the park.â€

Kevin Fischer

Fischer said the Nashville branch of design firm Kimberley-Horn and Associates designed the park, which will include three football fields.

“There are so many things this facility will bring for the city that we’ve needed for so long. And what was most important was hearing from citizens what they wanted. That allowed us to be sure the park was something that would be used and valued. The football fields fill a big need, and the splash pad was something so many people wanted to see.â€

One of Fischer’s favorite features of the coming park is its amphitheater-like sloping walking trail. “There was a lot of argument along the way about whether to include that. The architects and the engineer argued about how to use the slope of land that is in a flood zone. Constructing it in this amphitheater fashion cost a decent chunk of change, but I felt we had to keep that part of the design and I believe people will be impressed when it’s complete.â€

Several other new and ongoing projects are in the works for the Parks and Recreation department as well. The popular Movies in the Park program, which began in 2006, continues this year as SummerFest, with three more events set for July, August, and September at Evans Park. “We’re very happy to have Keller Williams Realty as sponsors this year,†Fischer said.

Another big development for the department has been the hiring of a firm to design a trail in Spring Hill that accommodates both pedestrians and bikes. “The need for these multi-nodal trails where people can either bike or walk, that’s something I’ve visualized and mapped out many times. Most people we’ve talked with have ideas about where they’d like to see trails. The key thing on something like this is to involve the public. Otherwise there is no public sense of ownership, and the facilities get no use. I don’t like that kind of government action, where you inform people what they’re going to get. Citizens should take a role in that, and share their voices, and many did with the bike trails.â€

The walking and biking trail will be funded through an enhancement grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Fischer hopes it will run from Harvey Park along McCutcheon Creek and over to Tanyard Springs.

“Thompson’s Station has its own similar trails already,†he said. “One trail runs up behind Tanyard Springs Family Dentistry on Williford. Then it just sort of stops there abruptly. Well we are going to connect our trail to that one. It will be fully bikable and walkable. You’ll be able to follow it and continue to Heritage Park and Thompson’s Station Park. There is also a plan by Thompson’s Station to connect the Thompson’s Station Park trail to Tollgate, which would make for quite a long trail beginning in Spring Hill.â€

Skaters at the Walnut Street Skate Park

One of the department’s most successful recent projects is the Walnut Street Skate Park which opened to the public in the spring. As with the Park at Port Royal and the biking trails, the skate park is a project that has been long discussed, but which was a long time in coming.

“Due to a number of issues, the skate park has been pushed on the back burner several times. But we received a grant from [the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation] to cover half the money needed, while the city provided the rest. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and it’s another example of something we did only after hearing a lot of input from users. It was after hearing from kids who skate locally that we knew the park would have to be concrete if it was going to get any use.â€

The skate park was designed by the owner of the Franklin Skate Shop, Donnie Myhre, a former professional skateboarder. It has been a popular destination for local skateboarders, in-line skaters, and BMX bikers.

“The park is designed with both beginner and experienced skaters in mind,†Fischer said. The park also allows the use of non-motorized scooters.

Looking ahead, Fischer said that he would like to make day events or day camps available at the city’s parks.

“I’ve loved my time here in Spring Hill,†said Fischer, who moved here with his family from West Virginia in 2005 to become the Parks director. “We already had some family in town, so the move made even more sense. My wife loves it here, too. We’re public servants, and whenever possible, we work together to help build relationships in the community.â€

Staff writer Greg Jinkerson covers Spring Hill for BrentWord Communications. Contact him at greg@springhillhomepage.com

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