JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Torn up sod, mounds of rock and heavy equipment will be a familiar sight at one of Johnson City’s most popular parks until at least June, Johnson City’s chief engineer says.
“The cleanup is probably going to be by the end of June,” Wallace McCulloch told News Channel 11, referring to infrastructure work that’s impacting a section of Founders Park downtown. “People are going to see this for awhile.”
“This” is a project related to the $35 million West Walnut Street redevelopment that began in late 2021. McCulloch said the work will help the city better handle stormwater from the Tree Streets and also from the upper reaches of Brush Creek, which flows through the park.
Currently, several large pieces of heavy equipment are sitting in the southeast part of the park, and sections of the trail are closed making a loop walk around the park’s perimeter impossible. Big piles of rock and dirt dot the landscape as well.
“The path next to the railroad track is going to be blocked off until probably May, June, somewhere in that timeframe,” McCulloch said.
He explained the infrastructure details of a job that will tunnel more than 100 feet from near the dead end of Cherry Street, under State of Franklin Road and the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks and into the park.
“There’s some large storm drain that runs down Earnest Street and we’re picking up storm drain that was not really connected before,” McCulloch said.
“Under the railroad tracks we’re extending two 48-inch diameter steel casing pipes. Inside that, we’ll put a storm pipe.”
The new connection will significantly improve how stormwater from rainstorms is handled and decrease the potential for flooding.
The work being done along Walnut and Ashe streets as part of the larger project improved the collection of stormwater around the intersections of Maple Street with Earnest and Sevier streets.
The big advantage of the new pipes going into Founders Park will come from their ability to quickly collect and move water from rainstorms in areas near Founders Park. Currently, water builds up in the area of Founders Park for a while due to limited lines that can carry large amounts into the bigger stream.
That’s problematic, because water from upstream tributaries to Brush Creek and Brush Creek itself, to the west, also needs a place to go. If it reaches the areas around Founders Park and just upstream and they’re still trying to push through the more localized rainfall, it has no place to go and flooding can occur.
Once the project is done, “as the storm from further out starts to build up, Brush Creek starts to rise, all that stormwater from the Tree Streets area is kind of gone,” McCulloch said.
“So we have a little less buildup in Founders Park hopefully as a result of this because we’re letting that water get out quicker (before) the big bulk of the stormwater comes from upstream. Typically that may be a day or two later.”