A project meant to improve safety at Rotary Park at Liberty Branch in Gallatin resulted in nearly $27,000 in damages to trees on the property, according to the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The damages occurred while brush was being cleared from a tree line on the North Blue Jay Way side of the property behind the Gallatin Driver Services Center in early October, according to Larry Wise, president of the Gallatin Morning Rotary Club which maintains the park. 

The work was meant to help improve security at the park by increasing its visibility from Nashville Pike.

“We scarred some trees,” Wise said. “We’re sorry for it. We are going to make the reparations for the scarred and damaged trees then continue forward with our vision of Gallatin Rotary Park with a kayak ramp, pavilions, benches, picnic tables and barbeque grills for the community.”

The City of Gallatin leased the property from the Corps of Engineers in March 2014 and agreed to allow the park to be reopened by the Gallatin Morning Rotary Club.

In September, city officials and members of the club met with a representative from the Corps of Engineers at the park to review what was allowed to be removed from the tree line and what must remain, according to Rosemary Bates, special projects director for the Gallatin.

“The person (the Gallatin Morning Rotary Club) contracted and paid indicated they had done work on Corps property before,” Bates added. “Whatever piece of equipment it is they used… was something more aggressive and it has teeth in it, so it made teeth-like gouges out of the sides of trees that were obviously mature or maturing.”

In all, there was “destruction of, or damage to” 26 trees at the park as a result of the work, according to a letter the city received from the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Nashville District office dated Nov. 8. The appraisal of the damage and restoration costs were assessed at $26,767.

Instead of paying outright for the value of the damages, the city is instead working on a plan to plant a number of “somewhat substantial small trees” that are native to Tennessee at the park, Bates said. The plantings would be done in the fall with the total investment of trees and labor expected to approach approximately $27,000. Whether or not any city funds will be needed for the remediation work has not yet been determined.

“The Corps is very excited about the reopening of the park and the potential for the park,” Bates added. “They see great value in it being open to the public. In no way do they want for this to seem like they are wanting to shut down the park or they are not being cooperative. They are being very kind about this and very understanding.”

The brush clearing project is the second time work being done at the park has resulted in tree damage. 

According to a May 2015 report from the Corps of Engineers, trees and plants were cleared from a portion of the property sometime prior to February of that year, which resulted in a “significant amount of damages” that was valued at $1.23 million.

As part of a remediation plan, the Gallatin City Council approved a recommendation to add 1,200 plants at the park the following year.

The Gallatin Moring Rotary Club hopes to install the kayak launch in the coming weeks, according to Wise. The group’s members have previously added a new main entrance to the park off North Blue Jay Way and continue to keep the property clean by picking up trash that has been dumped there.

“Gallatin Morning Rotary is just a few individuals (less than 20) putting in a lot of volunteer effort to try to improve this park for the city and for the community,” Wise added. “We’re glad the community is visiting the park, walking dogs, fishing and relaxing. We take pride in (the park) and we want to continue with our vision even with the setbacks.”

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