Parks are a big deal in Farragut. This is a fitness-oriented community that values recreation opportunities and connectivity, so there are often multiple park and greenway projects going on at the same time.
The town expects to start a park project this year that has special significance. Improvements at Anchor Park, located between Turkey Creek Road and Fort Loudoun Lake, are specifically geared toward giving disabled visitors a better experience. They will include a reconstructed and expanded restroom and entrance plaza, and ADA access to the park’s diamond and recreational fields. Half of the estimated construction cost will be covered by a $325,000 2018 Local Parks and Recreation Fund (LPRF) grant that the town received last year. The grant, administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Recreation Educational Services Division, is funded by the state property recordation tax.
Anchor Park, built in 1984, was the town’s first park. It’s small – just under 19 acres – but has broad appeal. In addition to lake views, it boasts a fishing pond with accessible piers and three picnic pavilions. Other assets include a basketball court, a horseshoe pitch, a small playground and a greenway that connects the park to several neighborhoods. It’s also the site of the annual Bob Watt Fishing Rodeo, which provides a fishing opportunity for disabled adults as well as children.
Municipalities across the state are in the process of improving ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access. Farragut assessed its accessibility last year, and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a transition plan that will take many years to complete. The plan requires the town to tackle small projects, like installation of accessible amenities, as well as large projects each year, says Parks & Recreation Director Sue Stuhl.
“The Anchor Park renovation is the town’s first large ADA improvement. It will provide an ADA-accessible restroom and wheelchair access to spectator seating and the player bench, which will give those with disabilities a better opportunity to utilize the park. Additional improvements will include a family restroom and beautiful landscaping, so everyone will benefit from this project. We were fortunate to receive this highly competitive grant.”
It’s high time for local governments to make accessibility a priority. According to the Department of Justice, approximately 19 percent of the U.S. population has disabilities, including many who became disabled while serving our country. By 2030, 71.5 million baby boomers will be over 65, and they’re unlikely to allow aging-related disabilities to keep them at home.
ADA improvements don’t come cheap. It will take years for municipalities – especially those with no property tax, like Farragut – to make the mandated changes. But efforts to make the town more accessible are in sync with its efforts to attract visitors. A community that welcomes all is bound to be a community that draws people from other areas.
ADA improvements are important and necessary for a growing community like Farragut. Improvements partially funded by a grant are even better. Now we can all get out and play.
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.