State approves $4 million for Rocky Fork State Park construction; Water line extension ready for bid

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jul 25, 2017 at 11:18 PM

ERWIN — The Tennessee Building Commission has approved funding to build the visitor center and other initial infrastructure at Rocky Fork State Park.

Funding for the $4 million project — including a 3,000-square-foot visitor center, two picnic shelters, a pedestrian bridge over Rocky Fork Creek and a maintenance building — was approved by the commission on July 19.

Kim Schofinski, deputy communications director for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said Tuesday selection of an architect and plans for the visitor center have not been finalized.

Because the project is being coordinated with Erwin Utilities extension of a water line to the edge of the park and with the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s improvement of Rocky Fork Road, construction inside the park is not expected to begin until the summer or fall of 2018, Schofinski said.

Matthew Rice, director of water and wastewater for Erwin Utilities, said Tuesday plans for the water line extension along Old Asheville Highway from Clear Branch Road to Rocky Fork Road at the corner of the park have been approved by the state Department of Economic and Community Development and will be advertised for bid beginning Wednesday.

The bid opening date is set for Aug. 18, after which a construction start date for the water line extension will be contingent on the contract award.

The extension, which will provide water service to an additional 50 homes along Old Asheville Highway, is being funded through a Community Development Block Grant and additional grant funding from Appalachian Regional and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

The final piece of the puzzle, Rice said, will be TDOT’s improvement of Rocky Fork Road and the coordination of the road work with a final water line extension from Asheville Highway to the park entrance.

While Erwin Utilities is still without funding, plans or a timeline for the final leg of water line extension to the park entrance, Rice expressed optimism. “I think the park is really important to the governor and I think they’ll figure it out,” he said.

In an announcement of the approval of funding for the park’s construction, state Rep. John Holsclaw Jr. said he was thankful to the State Building Commission and looking forward to seeing the project get underway.

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, who serves on the Building Commission, was a strong supporter of the project and joined Holsclaw in the announcement of the funding approval.

“Projects like this are vital in preserving and increasing access to some of our state’s most precious natural resources. I am proud of my colleagues for coming together to approve this important funding, and I thank Representative Holsclaw for his dedication to serving the community,” Harwell said in the announcement.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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