Long-awaited repairs to the 21st-century waterfront are one step closer to becoming reality, as officials with the city Parks and Recreation Department revealed the first draft of plans for fixes and upgrades to the park.
A quick glimpse at Ross's Landing doesn't suggest the area is in need of any revitalization. But at the edge of the terraces and docks, the constant flow of the Tennessee River has been sloughing away at a riprap embankment over the years, putting one of Chattanooga's signature areas at risk for longer-term erosion and potential instability.
"Everything underneath the terrace is being eroded and washing out," said Larry Zehnder, Parks and Rec Department administrator, in an interview with Nooga.com. "It has a lot to do with the current—the water has a very high velocity, and with the rise and fall of the river, it's a big issue. It takes a toll on what's there."
To mitigate any future deterioration, a "sheet pile" will be installed in the area where the river curves in front of the terraces near The Passage, the part of the park that depicts the Cherokee removal and Ross's Landing's role on the Trail of Tears. The sheet pile won't be visible to the public eye and will consist of steel walls under concrete, drilled down far into the bedrock at the bottom of the river.
Permanent sheet piles are used to retain soil and water in major harbors, such as Boston and New York, and other urban areas on waterways, Zehnder said.
Funding for the $8 million project was approved by the City Council last year, Zehnder said. Now that plans have been drafted, a contracting process will begin, leaving administrators with a better idea of how much they can undertake.
Possible additions suggested for the waterfront include a two-story waterfront activities center, which would include restrooms and an area for kayak and canoe storage. The grade of paths leading to the water would also be adjusted to better accommodate 60-foot rowing sculls used for the Head of the Hooch.
Ideas for the added amenities were the product of discussions facilitated with groups who actively use the Riverfront, who were able to make suggestions.
Since the waterfront hosts so many events in spring and summer, Zehnder said his ideal timeline would be to begin the projects sometime after this year's Head of the Hooch, which is scheduled for November. Construction will take six months.
"We're not trying to cancel anything," Zehnder said.
To view more photos of the proposed plans, click here.