Guest Opinion: Will Rockwood show horse sense on crossing?

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Since September 2010, the Roane County Executive’s Office has used a system of management called a 5-Point Star System.

It identifies five main topics that are the primary focus of the administration.

Over the last 20 months, some topics have been added and deleted over time, and some are still the focus of our administration. Go to www.roanegov.org and link to county executive’s office to see the progression of the 5-Point Star System.  

Recreation is the focus in this letter.  All the specific areas of the recreation program cannot be discussed here, so we recommend you visit the county’s website and the executive summaries related to the recreation activities and periodically review our updates and progress.

Executive Summary No. 17 (available on our website) identifies the Roane County Park and Recreation Board and its planning and recommendations on recreation activities and is in the process of being updated.  This board is a valuable asset to the Roane County recreation planning processes.

The board takes input from the general public and your respective county commissioners.

The board is currently working on a master recreation plan. View the county website to see updates on the plan. Please share any input with our office.

Recently, we have heard some negative comments out of various Rockwood residents regarding our request for a large animal crossing to be considered near the Roane State Expo Center.  At the request of Roane State Community College President Gary Goff, we began looking at the potential and benefit of asking the Tennessee Department of Transportation to include this project in the Hwy. 70 expansion.  

This expansion is already under construction and engineering design to four-lane Hwy 70 into the Midtown area. 

The opportunity for the animal crossing exists now, and the window will close for consideration in the near future.
Roane State operates the Expo Center and has a number of equestrian events and equestrian overnight camping at the college.

The county has planned the use of approximately 60 acres of the old Caney Creek Campground an equestrian, walking trail and possibly nonmotorized bike trail.

The Park and Recreation Board has discussed asking the state for a large animal crossing for the horses and their riders to be able to cross  Hwy. 70 from Roane State in a safe manner to arrive at our potential trail head at the old Caney Creek Campground.  

Our office made a request to TDOT in February for the large animal crossing consideration.

Some have expressed concerns that the project competes with the request to build an interchange road to Rockwood from the Rockwood Airport Road exit.  The projects are independent and there is no anticipation that the projects would compete for funding.  The interchange road project is not even in the conceptual planning phase. The Hwy. 70 project is in funding and engineering phase.  

The projects would not compete for funding due to the timeline of planning, engineering and construction, and the estimated costs of the projects.  

The Airport Road project is in the millions of dollars, and the large animal crossing is in the thousands.  The benefit for the animal crossing would be additional retail sales through local revenue for the city of Rockwood from Walmart, Tractor Supply Co. and others that support the equestrian industry.

Sales tax would generate revenue for our schools and hotel/motel tax generates revenue for our tourism and economic and industrial effort. The crossing also would help us assist the Expo Center in its efforts to stay open for future years.

A benefit would also be all the equestrians in Roane County could enjoy to trail and could park at the Expo Center and cross Hwy. 70 in a safe manner to use the Roane County trail.

Do we have support from the Rockwood area for this project?

The window of opportunity is now open and will close prior to the beginning of the Airport Road exchange and thus should we consider presuming this request of a large animal crossing under Hwy. 70 near Roane State?  

We support Rockwood, along with all our communities, and recognize that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Ron Woody
Roane County Executive