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Public interest was high Tuesday night at the Family Activity Center when about 20 people showed up to learn about the Clear Creek Greenway project and a possible expansion of athletic fields on 7th Street.
Former Shelby County Parks Director Clay Cottongim, who now acts in an advisory capacity and heads up grant writing, led the public meeting, held just before the monthly meeting of the Shelby County Parks Board.
Cottongim told the group the parks board is applying for a Recreational Trails Program Grants, which will go toward the construction of a paved, 10-foot trail along Clear Creek from Stratton Bottom Park, at the northern end of 2nd Street in Shelbyville, to the Whoda Thot It Bridge on Jail Hill Road.
“We’d really like to get these trails started and done like the ones [in Metro Louisville’s Parklands] at Floyd’s Fork,” he said. “You’ll be able to use it for bikes, wheelchairs, hiking or whatever along Clear Creek.”
When someone from the audience asked how much money it would take to make that happen, he said he was planning to submit a grant request for $75,000.
“We’re shooting for the seventy-five-thousand-dollar grant, because we feel we can match that,” he said.
Cottongim will also be applying for a $75,000 Land, Water, Conservation Fund grant.
Bob Walter, a member of Clear Creek Conservation Trust, said the parks system is hoping, through that grant, to acquire property to expand its soccer and football fields on a beautiful area of 21 acres along the creek, located next to Calvary Cemetery.
Both are federal funds distributed through the state Department for Local Government.
Cottongim told the crowd that the board is hoping to get the word out that donations, and grants are sorely needed, and urged people to participate in a survey on the Shelby County Parks Web site, saying whether they support the Calvary Cemetery property acquisition for the athletic fields and the Clear Creek Greenway project from Stratton Bottom Park to Jail Hill.
“That’s the main thing, trying to get the greenway project under way; we’re still trying to acquire land as we go along,” Cottongim said. “We could get a good portion done with our trails grant. We’re hoping that it’s going to be a least mile, and eventually, ten or more miles.
“The first section we would like to see get done would go from Stratton Bottom all the way around to Lake Shelby at Clear Creek Park. Eventually, we would like to see it go all the way to Red Orchard Park.”
No one at the meeting expressed any opposition to the projects, and Shelby County Parks Director Shawn Pickens said he was pleased with Cottongim’s help and the public’s enthusiasm for them.
Cottongim said the competition for grant money has become fiercer over the years.
“They only fund about ten grants out of every forty or so applicants,” he said. “The more public support for the grants, the better chance we have because it’s highly competitive.”
He added that grant money is even more important as a revenue source than in previous years because of the scarcity of governmental funding.
“Times are tough for city and county governments, the money just isn’t there like it used to be,” he said.
Cottongim said that they have a surveyor and an attorney willing to donate time, but is really are cash donations.
“If people act quickly this year, they can get up to twenty percent tax break [with a donation set up into an endowment fund, either a new one or one the park already maintains] on their Kentucky taxes. It’s a program they started last year, and they only give out so many deductions, and last year they ran very early.”
With funds in endowment program, the park can use the interest for any project.
Anyone who was unable to attend the meeting still can voice their opinions in writing within two weeks to the Recreational Trails Program or the Land, Water Conservation Fund Program at the governor’s office, the Department for Local Government, 1024 Capitol Center Drive, Suite 340, Frankfort, 40601.