Memorial Park’s East Main Street component nearing completion

Gary B. Gray • Apr 9, 2013 at 9:45 PM

Construction of Johnson City’s East Main Street component at Memorial Park is expected to wrap up in a matter of days, which means residents and visitors will soon have a place to honor veterans, hear a concert, attend an outdoor class, toss a Frisbee or simply stretch their legs.

Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said there will be an official opening and/or dedication this spring, but there are no specific dates set at this time.

C&T Construction has dealt with some cold and soggy days along the way, but the end of the $1.4 million project is here. What was at one time piles of debris is now a well-polished addition to the Memorial Park Community Center and the 25-acre Memorial Park.

“They were supposed to be done around the first of the year, but bad weather slowed them down a bit,” said Randy Christiansen, project manager with Burleson Construction. “They’ve done an outstanding job, and it looks like the public could start using the facility in a week or two. The landscaping really is bringing the project together, and the Doughboy being restored to its original condition really exceeded my expectations.”

Workers with Terry Henderson Landscaping on Tuesday finished laying sod near a new 60-foot-wide concrete and red brick plaza just in front of this area which is anchored in its center by the historical Doughboy. And, the existing Vietnam Memorial remains just to the south of the plaza.

Workers also are wrapping up the planting of elms, oaks and maples, and placing mulch under trees and throughout various areas. Now that sod is down, a better perspective is possible regarding the amount of greenspace, and it appears, at first blush, to be more expansive than first envisioned.

Both memorial areas have been completely restored, and 30 heavy steel benches with green vinyl coating are bolted down in these areas, and along the main walkway just above the 350-seat amphitheater accessible from the plaza. This amenity includes eight rows of curved concrete, the top row being 116 feet long. This allows visitors to look down on a red concrete semi-circle that will serve as a stage for any number of events.

The work was reason enough for Johnson City’s sacred Doughboy to leave his post for the first time in nearly 77 years. The iconic replica of a World War I soldier was carefully unbolted and taken from the location last summer to Gardner Paint Services, where it received a face lift. The soldier is shining.

When the weather is right, and folks are so inclined, they can take their shoes off and lay their feet in grass, which lies underneath each seat. The two sides include landscaped areas. And the stairs and access points are both wide and handicapped accessible.

Visitors may be pleasantly surprised the way the company has restored the original monuments, main flagpole and decorative lighting. Floodlights also have been strategically placed at the base of the Doughboy and on either side of the main entrance to the amphitheater which point upward to the flag. Tall, antique-style lights, painted to match the benches and flood lights, line the walkways and provide light and flair to the area.

Two water fountains, also handicapped accessible, are placed at the two ends of the main entrance. The fountains have two bowls and are freeze proof. They also are timed to release water a few seconds after the button is pushed, and the shape is such that the water flows into the drain in a circular motion.

The main entrance is off East Main, but two other large entrances can be accessed — an additional entry point on East Main and another nearer the post office. These access points will be gated, but there are other ways for visitors to enter the Main Street component.

Nashville-based WASCO Inc. has renovated the original columns and brick that had served as the entry way to the old Memorial Stadium. This section retained the original flagpole, which of course was restored, as well as all the original red brick.

The city’s Public Works Department is continuing this work from East Main east to Bert Street and from East Main to Cardinal Park’s outfield fence on the perimeter of the post office parking area. These areas will serve as part of a walking trail that stretches around Memorial Park Community Center.

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