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Officials tour Clarksville, Tenn., riverfront, make comparisons

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

A field trip to Tennessee may be just what the Paducah Riverfront Development Authority needed to continue making progress on the Riverfront Development Project.

Most of the PRDA board and several city officials traveled to Clarksville, Tenn., on Wednesday afternoon. The group toured Liberty Park, a park and marina project that is similar to Paducah's Riverfront Development Project, to gain a more lasting opinion on what elements are essential to Paducah's construction.

PRDA has been reviewing the Riverfront Development Project since this fall, when the project was halted because it was over budget. With just phase one completed, the project is an estimated $2.5 million over its expected budget. PRDA has been working to trim the project to fit funding specifications. The board has been crafting a bid document, chock-full of downsizing options that could allow the City Commission to pick and choose less costly alternatives.

"It was a valuable trip because we got to talk about and see a lot of the priorities we have been talking about in our own project," PRDA Chairman Bruce Brockenborough said.

Brockenborough, board members Sandra Wilson, Joe Framptom and Meredith Schroeder, and city officials Jeff Pederson, Steve Doolittle, Rick Murphy and Mark Thompson took the 90-minute drive to spend the afternoon at the park and compare it to Paducah's plan. Most of the examination focused on a stone block revetment - large, recreational stone steps that lead down the bank into the river, connecting land and water for park goers - which is set to cost the city about $500,000. The board has been working on whether to include or alter the revetment at the Paducah site.

"There's nothing like having a nearby lab to look at an expensive item like this and see if it's worth it," Doolittle said.

Clarksville began construction on its $34 million park and inlet project in 2010. The park opened in 2012. Before the marina, the city had the same problem as Paducah: Boaters had to travel long distances between stops on the river and bypass Clarksville because there was no place to dock.

Mayor Kim McMillan took office in 2011 and pushed the project to completion.

"There were some stumbling blocks and negotiations took time, but we recognized it as a vitally important project, and the administration breathed new life into it," said Jennifer Rawls, city communications director.

Liberty Park is city-owned, while Clarksville Marina is privately owned, although both are part of the same complex. The city paid for the park and its facilities, along with digging out the basin, but the private developers paid for marina costs. Paducah's original plans were set to work on the same model.

The Clarskville park features a 500-seat event center, along with smaller rent-able buildings, a dog park, a boat launch, an outdoor amphitheater and sports fields. Construction on a restaurant is also set to begin this spring.

Paducah's project is smaller -a three-acre park as opposed to 150 acres - but it has the same intended effect. City officials hope for a place for boats to park for the day or overnight, alongside a park that will cater to locals and tourists. The projects both used the same designers for engineering, as well.

"It's a beautiful park, stunning in its scale," Brockenborough said. "We would love something that is as positive as their park to benefit Paducah. I think the next meeting we are going to put a pin in a lot of these priorities and give the city staff some guidance on a bid document."

PRDA meets again Wednesday to continue narrowing down a plan to present to the Paducah City Commission.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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