This isn’t the sort of thing a PR person is supposed to say, but McFee Park looks like a war zone.
The north side of the park has been stripped bare, and tall piles of mulch mark the former locations of trees. The scenic bowl of grass is gone, and busy backhoes are already reshaping the site.
Fortunately, the mess makes sense to the town of Farragut engineering department. Town engineer Darryl Smith and engineering technician Scott Brewer hosted a question and answer session about the third phase of park improvements for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, who approved funding for the long-awaited project just three months ago. They explained to the group how the site will be graded, the route of the new entrance road and where the great lawn and tennis courts will be located. The grading will require 6,000 truckloads of topsoil, Scott said.
“You’re filling in a big hole,” explained Parks Director Sue Stuhl.
Sue knows a thing or two about parks and she’s not bothered by the current state of McFee park.
“In 29 years, I’ve watched many park phases go through the process of construction. It rarely looks pretty at the beginning, and it’s a lot of work to get to the end. But it’s always worth it when you get there.”
Park development requires a long view. The town purchased the first 26-acre parcel for McFee Park in 1995, and construction of the first phase didn’t begin until 2007. The park opened for public use in 2009 with two lighted rectangular fields, a restroom/storage building, a walk trail and a parking lot. That same year, the park expanded with the purchase of 16.9 acres along McFee Road.
In 2010, phase two construction added a playground, two picnic pavilions and additional restrooms, walk trails and parking. Another 9.48 acres of adjacent property was purchased that year. In 2011, the town’s first splash pad opened.
Since 1995, there have been four master plans for the park. According to Sue, if construction is delayed for a few years after a park plan is completed, it generally needs to be redone because community needs change. The most recent master plan, completed in 2016, includes a great lawn, four tennis/pickleball courts, pavilions, an amphitheater, a new playground and additional trails. Current budget constraints have taken the amphitheater and the playground off the table for now, but a basketball court and a disc golf course are future possibilities.
The third phase of McFee Park construction is expected to be completed in May of 2021.
Parks are important to all of us – maybe more than ever. There has been much to mourn during the past three months, but seeing the cyclists, dog-walkers and social-distance-visiting in Farragut parks has been a bright spot for me. McFee Park is especially valued by our families with young kids. (If you don’t believe it, take a look at the social media response to the delayed opening of the splash pad. Yikes.)
The town has planned and saved for McFee Park since the first property purchase in 1995, so let’s celebrate the earth movers that are building a beautiful new place to recreate and relax. It will be worth it. Sue says so.
Town of Farragut public relations and marketing coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut Insider.