Thursday, May 10, 2012
In the face of lower than normal budget revenues, Walden Town Recorder Fern Lockhart says the town “won’t be able to start any new projects [this budget year] as far as I can tell.”
This comes on the heels of conversations with residents about further upgrades to the McCoy property to open the facility up to the public, even if just preliminarily. Money was previously earmarked to bring the building up to code, add outdoor restrooms and establish a parking area, but all that is expected to be used for just that, leaving future work unfunded based on current budget projections.
“If you all want a group of people to help, we will if you ask us,” said resident Nancy Brody, who suggested to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at the board’s last public meeting that officials consider starting a “Friends of” group to help with projects at the property. “Establishing a Friends of McCoy might build some support and might get a groundswell of support. Very few people even know what [the McCoy house/property] is.”
Brody said opening up the grounds to the public for preliminary uses like picnics and walks might also help with generating support for the town’s plan to turn the facility into a multi-use town center and event space.
“I think opening it up we’re going to start to get more interest as people see what’s taking place there,” said Alderman David Epperson. “Right now there’s still a lot of work that has to be done cosmetically to the grounds. They’re still not in a condition where they would show the public what the real potential is.”
Signal Mountain resident Sam Powell has offered to volunteer his time and expertise to lay out a trail system through the 38-acre property. He helped advocate for, design and continues to help maintain the local portion of the Cumberland Trail system.
“As as a citizen I would really, really like to be able to get in there and be able to start enjoying that,” Brody said. “I agree with taking it slow, I’d just like to see the gate unlocked and people be able to go in there.”
Mayor Peter Hetzler said while there is no opening date set, he hopes to be able to open the facility up to public use by early next year at the latest, “but I would hope we could get something done this year.”
“[We’re working to] get the house in a condition where it could be used for events and get parking done for the trail so if nothing else, people could park in a relatively safe place and walk around the property to see what it has to offer,” he said.
“There are safety issues right now with the [house’s electrical] wiring,” Epperson explained. “We’re trying to get some of these other issues resolved, then we can open it up.”