More than 14 years after Williamson County was given 74 acres adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway, the county is set to transform it into a usable park that will open to the public this summer.
The paved road — blocked by a “road closed” sign — leading into the Timberland Park site adjacent to the Natchez Trace south of Highway 96 West has been the only clue the hilly, secluded land was one day meant to be a recreational area.
The county will use two grants, along with county matching funds, to make improvements to the park starting this winter.
The project will be bid January 17 in hopes of hiring a contractor and starting construction by the end of February, with the opening estimated in July, said Williamson County parks planning administrator Phyllis Huffman.
The project to install a hiking trail, parking areas, picnic tables, a visitor building and other amenities has been years in the making.
The county in 2009 received a federal grant from American Scenic Byways because the park is along Natchez Trace, and another grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The grants are approaching their use-it-or-lose-it deadlines this year. However, County Mayor Rogers Anderson cautioned in 2010 that Timberland Park likely would be a “long-term commitment that may take years to have open.”
“It’s been forever. … This is one of my favorite sites and I am really looking forward to getting that site built like I see it, as a passive park,” said Huffman, who has been overseeing the details of the grant.
“The land has so many really steep ravines, I can’t say I see any mountain biking or anything like that in the future,” Huffman said.
“It is a rustic hiking trail that, in some areas, you will need to use some type of walking stick. It’s up and down; there’s nothing flat about it. The only flat area is where the building is sitting and the circular drive.”
The larger grant will build a circular driveway connecting to the road the county built to access the property about six years ago after negotiating an easement with the National Parks Service, which owns the road.
The circular drive will include a paved area for cars and RVs to pull off the road and enjoy the trail, picnic tables and an environmentally green building with a self-sustaining well system, rainwater recapture and a solar-based electrical power system.
The building will include information boards about Natchez Trace Parkway and an open-air area for presentations and speakers.
The Natchez Trace Compact is looking forward to seeing the hiking trails, picnic tables and visitor building!