City officials could consider taking over Clark Center Park in south Oak Ridge, City Manager Mark Watson said Sunday.
It could be an alternative to letting the U.S. Department of Energy turn over the popular swimming, boating, picnicking, and fishing destination to the federal General Services Administration, which could, in turn, dispose of it, Watson said.
The 80-acre park—which includes a softball field, boat ramp, swimming beach, restrooms, and picnic areas—is a major cost to DOE, Watson said. And running a park is not really part of the department’s mission.
“They’re facing continuing budgetary shortfalls, and they’re going to have to do something with the park,” Watson said.
It’s part of a discussion that dates back to at least 1993, Watson said.
“This time, it looks like it’s moving in a different direction,” he said. “It’s moving toward GSA.”
The park and its facilities could be given to the city. But before that happens, Watson said, he wants the community to be able to weigh in and answer such questions as: Does the city want to take the park and its facilities, and what would Oak Ridge do with them?
“We need to make an important community decision as to whether it stays and we do something with it,” Watson said.
He said the discussion between the city and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office is still strategic, and a timeframe has not been worked out.
“We need to discuss it and have the council tell me some of the things that they need,” Watson said.
The Oak Ridge City Council will discuss the proposal during a non-voting work session at 7 p.m. today.
Watson declined to say how much it costs DOE to operate the park, saying those numbers should come from the department. But he said the city could run it for less money.
“But the question comes: Do we have the money?” Watson said.
The debate over the future of the park bears at least some resemblance to discussions over the future of the American Museum of Science and Energy in central Oak Ridge. DOE has been told that running a museum is not part of its mission. The City of Oak Ridge and AMSE Foundation have started a series of four community meetings to discuss the future of the museum; the first meeting was Thursday. Oak Ridge National Laboratory currently manages AMSE for DOE and contributes, along with other major DOE contractors in Oak Ridge, to its operating costs.
Clark Center Park is also sometimes referred to as Carbide Park after Union Carbide, a former managing contractor for the federal government in Oak Ridge.
It’s not clear how the future of the park could affect access to the Gallaher Bend Greenway, which begins at the far end of the park.
Tonight’s City Council work session is in the Central Services Complex at 100 Woodbury Lane. You can see the agenda here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.