CHURCH HILL — Although the materials, funding and permits are in place, a project that would halt erosion and repair Laurel Run Park’s shoreline could be on hold well into 2019 depending on how much it rains next spring and summer.
The park’s 2,500-foot-long shoreline located just south of Church Hill has eroded between 6 and 10 feet during the past eight years.
Trees that were once 5-10 feet inland have either been washed away or are teetering on the bank of the Holston River, and the walking trail is now only 3-5 feet from the bank in some places.
Retired county properties manager Alana Roberts has been working on the Laurel Run Park shoreline project since its inception.
Although she retired as of Sept. 1, Roberts stayed on part time to help new Mayor Jim Lee’s transition into office, and on Monday Roberts gave the county commission’s Parks Committee an update on the shoreline project.
The Tennessee Valley Authority donated 85 truckloads of large rock, which would have cost the county about $50,000 to purchase.
But the dry season has ended, the river level is now too high, and the ground near the bank is saturated and unsafe for heavy equipment.
Roberts said the county missed its weather window of opportunity to complete the work in 2018.
“The land near the river that we would have to approach with heavy equipment is not stable enough for us to use, nor is the level of the river,” Roberts told the committee Monday. “It’s too high.”
Roberts added, “It’s getting colder and you actually have to be in the river to do this project, so we’re going to probably have to put this off at least until spring. Because of that, we didn’t go forward with the bid. Ideally we were hoping to do this in the fall because August, September and October are usually the driest months, and the water level is a lot lower in those months.”
If the spring is too wet, the project will have to be delayed until the summer, or possibly even the fall of 2019.
The county commission has budgeted $75,000 for the project, so purchasing rock would have consumed two-thirds of the budget.
“If the TVA had not been able to help us with the rock, we would not have been able to do this project,” Roberts told the Times News Tuesday. “We would not have had enough to pay the contractor to actually do the work. With the assistance of TVA and their contribution of the rock, we will have some money to hire a contractor to actually do the work with their heavy equipment.”
Hawkins County received a permit to protect 1,881 feet of shoreline at the park.
However, $75,000 won’t cover the cost for the full 1,881. The plan is to address the worst areas, repair them and hope that will be enough to stop erosion in the other areas.
If the weather cooperates, the project is expected to take about three weeks.
A short distance upriver from the park is a major bend.
When it rains, the current coming around that bend puts pressure on the southern shore.
As a result, the park’s riverbank is being undercut, which first creates sinkholes, followed by the collapse of the shore, which eventually washes away.
“Our goal is to get this done as quick as possible,” Roberts said. “We don’t want to lose our walking trail, and we don’t want to have to redo the trail.”
She added, “When the ground is soft close to the riverbank, it’s easy for the ground to give way. We always try to caution people against walking to the edge of the bank and looking over because you don’t know whether it’s been undercut by the river.”
Hawkins County Soil Conservationist Daniel Horne contributed an engineering study which was required for the project to proceed.
The committee voted Monday to formally recognize Horne for his contribution to the project during an upcoming county commission meeting.