Many projects are happening in Oak Ridge at the present time. Our city does not slow down and is affected by issues at the state, federal, and local levels.
As your city manager, I am concentrating on matters such as the implementation of EPA sewer requirements on a tight timeframe, creation of a national park, development of a new mall, and installation of a new dispatch center.
Among its many other decisions, Oak Ridge will be facing a pair of major initiatives which particularly important for our community. The American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE), owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory contractor UT-Battelle, is under new leadership as veteran museum director David Moore takes the helm. With this change, the DOE knows that the long-term viability of a museum is dependent upon local and regional involvement.
Recently, the AMSE Foundation and the City of Oak Ridge have been co-hosting a series of community meetings about AMSE to discuss options for developing a new operating model for the museum. Two of four public discussions have been held about this topic.
Last week, we heard from the directors of the MUSE in Knoxville, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, and the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol to hear how today’s museums remain current and relevant to their visitors. Turnout for the first two meetings has been very encouraging; the next public meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 25, from 6-8 p.m., when heritage tourism will be discussed.
This is the time for interested citizens of Oak Ridge and surrounding areas to participate in planning a new future for the museum.
In addition, preliminary discussions are under way about the possible land transfer of Clark Center Park, also known as Carbide Park, from DOE ownership to the City of Oak Ridge. Your City Council has expressed a desire to hear your ideas about how this valuable recreational asset can be used to maximum benefit and how its continued operations and maintenance can be financed.
A public meeting with the Oak Ridge City Council is scheduled for Monday, August 25, at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building Courtroom to consider questions, which could include: What are the options to finance ongoing operation of the park? What amenities/improvements would the community desire? Is city ownership the best option? Costs? Benefits? What is the Oak Ridge public’s definition of a recreation use for Clark Center Park?
As city manager, I ask that Oak Ridgers consider these important initiatives and participate in the upcoming public meetings to express your opinions. Your thoughts are being carefully noted in the records and some very positive conclusions are being seen about our community’s interest and support for these important community institutions. I hope you will help us determine the City of Oak Ridge’s destiny, as we continue to see changes in DOE roles and missions and impacts on this city. The City Council and I hope to see you and hear from you at these important meetings.
Mark Watson is Oak Ridge city manager.