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City allocates more funds for Bays Mountain Park

Matthew Lane • Sep 7, 2017 at 8:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Bays Mountain Park just hit the lottery.

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen allocated an additional $1 million to Bays Mountain Park. The money will go toward a number of much-needed improvements at the park, like repaving the road up the mountain, the creation of overflow parking and a new entry gate.

But where did the money come from?

More than half the money, some $680,000, was originally allocated as Kingsport's portion of the building fund for PETworks Regional Animal Service. Since Sullivan County chose not to fund its portion of the joint animal shelter this year, this freed up the $680,000 in Kingsport's budget.

Along a similar vein, since the renovation and remodeling of public housing in Kingsport was delayed one year, this freed up $224,000 in city funds. Throw in more than $95,000 from the city's general project fund and you've got a $1 million windfall for the park.

According to information presented to the BMA, the $1 million will go toward the following improvements:

— A new entry gate ($61,000) and nature center gateway ($68,720).

— Repaving the entry road ($275,000).

— Additional parking of 90 to 100 spaces located near the mountain bike trails ($275,000).

— Renovate the picnic shelters ($117,000).

— Wayfinding signage ($60,000).

Chris McCartt, assistant city manager for administration, told the BMA many of the items on this list have already been on Bays Mountain's capital needs list.

“Connectivity from the gate to the nature center is what we've wanted,” McCartt said. “People want to see a very welcoming and well-maintained environment and signage to move throughout the park.”

Repaving the road and creating a new parking lot will likely begin next spring, with the design work beginning very shortly, McCartt said. City officials are hoping most of the work would take place at night and note the park will remain open during the construction.

“If you visit the park during the next 12 to 18 months, you should consider it a construction site, but we think people will be excited to see the work,” McCartt said.

The $1 million is not all of the money Kingsport is allocating for Bays Mountain Park this year. Already earmarked in the current year budget is $1.15 million, money that's going toward a master plan for new animal exhibits, the construction of an outdoor classroom, the first phase of dam repairs, and nature center and planetarium upgrades.

Over the next five years, Kingsport is planning to spend $8 million on Bays Mountain Park, in addition to the $2.1 million allocated this year, City Manager Jeff Fleming said.

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