If you look at Ray Lawrence Park in Clarksville on a map, you can see why there might be an issue with flooding. The park is nine acres of green next to a residential neighborhood. But directly to the northwest is acres and acres of gray: Clarksville’s big box stores, auto dealerships and a mall—and the accompanying swaths of paved parking lots.
All that paved surface means that when it rains, water has nowhere to go. Right now, it washes off the parking lots into a catch basin at Ray Lawrence Park, and is eventually pumped elsewhere. But the catch basin is too small. And city officials have proposed expanding it to try to reduce flooding in some neighborhoods. But the effort has met some resistance.
“You’re taking a big chunk of this park away,” says Andy Swanson, gesturing towards trees and picnic tables. Swanson lives right next to the park, and has been gathering signatures urging Clarksville to explore other options.
“We’re not against dealing with the storm water runoff,” he says. “We just don’t want to see a park go away because of it.”
Swanson points to a 2008 study that mentions an alternative to the larger basin. But Clarksville Utilities and Capital Projects Coordinator Brittany Montgomery says the current plan is the most cost-effective option in an area without much publicly owned land.
“We looked, but the area is built out,” she says. “And there is no other place unless we were to look at taking existing homes or businesses.”
She says addressing the flooding is a priority, and the city will make improvements to the park if the city council votes to go ahead with the project. The measure is scheduled for a vote at tonight’s city council meeting.