On track: Church Hill waiting for railroad permits to begin Phase 1 of new 65 acre park

Jeff Bobo • Mar 20, 2019 at 7:00 PM

CHURCH HILL — The Norfolk Southern Railroad's permit approval is still needed before Church Hill can begin work on the new 65 acre park along Holliston Mills Road and the Holston River which has been in the planning stages for the past four years.

During Tuesday's monthly meeting, the Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen received an update on the park project which was launched in 2015 thanks to a $500,000 state grant that helped pay for the purchase of the property, as well as design and planning.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year the BMA placed $1.6 million in the city budget to begin Phase 1 of the park construction. That funding has continued to carry over to subsequent budgets, waiting for the project to enter construction phase.

Phase 1 includes replacing a private railroad crossing with a new public railroad crossing to access the park property, as well as parking lots and driveways, and constructing a gymnasium estimated to cost around $800,000.

Phase one will take up about 5-10 acres and won’t involve ball field construction.

The park property is bordered on three sides by the Holston River, Holliston Mills Road, and the NSR’s tracks.

Mayor Dennis Deal noted Tuesday that the architect plans for the gym are complete. When NSR permits are approved to build the new crossing, and bore under the tracks to install utilities, work on Phase 1 can begin.

"That's a long process,” Deal said. “You can't just go into a railroad. We paid for the power, water and sewer permits."

Deal added, "We feel like we're pretty much on track. You just have to wait until the railroad gives the green light.

City Recorder Joshua Russell added, "The biggest thing that's holding us up is we are waiting for the comprehensive bid package for the railroad. They want to know what's going under the bore, so we're waiting for the engineer and the architect to complete those drawings for us. Once those are done we can move forward with the pre-construction conference with the railroad, and begin construction."

Once the railroad signs off on the permits, Russell expect construction to begin within 3-6 months.

Phase 1 is just the beginning of a long term park development that Deal has said could take 20 years to complete in phases.

The long term goals also include three more gym, a soccer field, two baseball fields, four softball fields, walking trails, and two fenced playgrounds.

At the far eastern end of the property there’s even a small riverfront campground planned, but that would likely be among the last things completed.

"We want to get the gyms built," Deal said. "Right now we use the school gyms, and this way we'll control our recreation by having our own gyms."

Another future goal for the park is to begin hosting sports tournaments that would help the city generate tourism revenue.

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