As members of the Knox County parks board eye a major electrical overhaul at Ouabache Trails park, they, too, will look to a more elaborate 5-year plan of improvements.
Board president Cathy Lane called the electrical failure at the park — which has prompted its temporary closure — somewhat “ironic,” as the replacement of its 40-year-old electrical infrastructure would likely have been at the top of the priority list.
“Because we knew this was going to happen regardless,” she said during the parks board’s regular meeting this week, held at City Hall, 201 Vigo St., since Ouabache Trails Park remains closed to the public.
“We knew we wanted to make updates, add on to the electric, because it hasn’t been where we needed it to be, not for a long time. So this has really forced us to think about what we’re going to do out there and make a plan for it.”
Parks officials will soon meet with Duke Energy to discuss updating Ouabache Trails Park’s electrical infrastructure, which is privately owned by the county and laid when the park opened in the 1980s. A repair is currently being made so the park can reopen to the public, but the parks board is unsure of how much money a total overhaul will cost.
To pay for it, they will seek a portion of the remaining $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds — money the county commissioners will soon seek to divvy out to applicants they deem worthy.
But the electrical overhaul is only a part of a larger 5-year plan to improve the entire park system, Lane said this week.
And while they have a working document, they want feedback from the public before making anything final.
“As board members, we always have a wish list of things we’d like to do and see, but I want to give everyone an opportunity to offer input,” Lane said.
Pursuing comprehensive plans is something municipalities and governing bodies pursue often. Not only do they allow for priority lists and efficiency in making improvements, they also make them more eligible for grant funding.
On the list of potential improvements to be included so far, Lane said, is building more cabins at Ouabache Trails Park and upgrading the campground area.
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Too, they’d like to add playground equipment, specifically equipment compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, not just at Ouabache Trails Park but also at Hillcrest Park.
A new shelter house at Hillcrest Park is also on the list, as are updates to the dog parks there.
Other wish list items include repairs to the pond at Fox Ridge Nature Park, as well as continued repairs to the walking paths there. The parks board would also like to add some additional places to rest along those walking paths.
During the parks board meeting this week, one local resident asked about the possibility of a nature center at Ouabache Trails Park and continued focus on ridding the parks of invasive species as well as maintenance to the hiking trails there.
And everything is on the table, Lane said. That’s the point of a comprehensive plan after all; it’s an opportunity to dream a little.
“We would eventually like to do some online surveys and get some input that way,” she said. “We definitely want to have more public discussions, too.
“This will be a living document of awhile.”
“We genuinely want to know what everyone wants in their parks,” added superintendent Rhonda Foster. “When everything shut down (due to COVID), when people had nowhere to go, they were at our parks, and I loved that. Now that I’ve seen that, though, I want to do everything I can to make sure they are places people enjoy. And we haven’t done any major updates to the parks in quite some time.”
Lane said they do plan to host a public meeting so people can offer their thoughts on what improvements they’d like to see made to the county parks system, but a date hasn’t yet been set.
In the meantime, thoughts can be sent via the park’s Facebook page at “Ouabache Trails Park.”