Town grants, including $2.5 million, outlined by Farragut leaders to RCF

Town of Farragut officials gave Rotary Club of Farragut members a gaze into its crystal ball of how grants play into the Town’s Parks and Recreation development during the club’s meeting in Fox Den Country Club Wednesday, March 22.

“We, at the Town of Farragut, heavily rely on grants as part of our budgeting process for big projects,” said Town administrator David Smoak, a RCF past president/current member. “We have a lot of them for the next several years in our (Capital Improvement Program).”

One of those is a $2.5 million grant proposal to Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation to fund improvements and new features to McFee Park and Bob Leonard Park. As part of a grant process, for which the Town applied, it was required to present the grant application to a civic organization.

“The grant process is very important to us,” said Parks and Recreation director Ron Oestreich, a Rotarian in Illinois, from where he recently moved. “Tennessee Local Parks and Rec Fund Grant is generally announced every two to three years.

“Generally, TDEC caps matching funds at about $500,000,” he added. “Well, they changed that because of COVID. There’s no cap on this request. It is a 50 percent match, so we went for a lot of good stuff.

“Due to a larger cap, our team, which is Lauren Cox, our Parks manager; Bryson Keith, Parks program coordinator; and Ryan Rhodus submitted a preliminary application for a matching grant of $2.5 million.”

He noted Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the Town’s portion of $1.25 million for the projects at the Feb. 9 Board meeting.

“So we’re excited to present these to you,” Oestreich said. “We hope to hear back to the state that we can move forward in the grant process (soon).

“If chosen to move forward, we can proceed with the final application, which is due on April 19,” he added.

“As of 2020, the population of the Town was 23,506 people in a little under 9,000 households,” Keith said. “We are a little bit biased, but we like our parks. We like to offer over 133 acres dedicated to recreation and approximately 16 miles of greenways.

“Our parks are a draw from people from all over the Greater Knoxville area, and we do not have separate fees for residents or non-residents,” he added. “You will find teams using our fields from across the Town, across the state.

”We were lucky enough recently to have a group that is coming from Spain (see story in the March 22 issue of farragutpress).”

The grant would help fund synthetic turf replacements on athletic Field 1 and Field 2 at Mayor Bob Leonard Park. Keith explained the synthetic turf has a lifespan of eight to 10 years. Field 1’s turf was installed in 2016 and Field 2 was installed in 2013.

In addition to the traditional soccer and lacrosse uses, “you’ll also find football teams, training, rugby and quidditch from Harry Potter,” Keith said. “We have had groups rent for that before.”

The Town also is looking to expand ADA access to those fields, working on the steep walking trail from Harrison Lane to the hill to make it ADA accessible, planting hedges to keep soccer balls from rolling down the hill and adding ADA player benches on both fields.

Additionally, “we are excited to be adding a new dog park to McFee Park, the first in Town and a much-requested facility,” Keith said.

“We see this (dog park) as an off-leash area for dogs and their owners to be able to run and play without worrying whether their dogs are going to run off.”

There also will be Americans with Disabilities Act accessible parking and a restroom facility for the dog owners and other park users.