Wetlands project would build bridges, parks and trails
By: David Thomas, The Jackson Sun on Sep 09, 2016
This artist's rendering shows the concept for the planned recreational portion of the Middle Fork Forked Deer Floodplain and Wetland Restoration project.
The enterprise is aggressive, but possibilities abound after David Blackwood discussed the Forked Deer Stream and Wetland Project on Thursday, when Jackson Young Professionals met at the Jackson Country Club.
Blackwood, West Tennessee River Basin Authority agent engineer, said the process of developing new parks that will incorporate hiking and biking trails, fishing and canoeing started about one year ago and could be completed as early as 2019.
“If this is a good (idea), and everyone wants it, it’s something we should consider,” Blackwood said. “It’s something we should do — if the money is there.”
Apparently the cash is available, considering $13 million in state funds have been allocated for four-plus miles of walking trails, to include pedestrian bridges that span the Middle Fork Forked Deer River and floodways.
The Middle Fork Forked Deer Stream and Floodplain Restoration Project will include man-made wetlands in North Madison and South Gibson counties. When complete, the project will have biking and hiking trails, along with boardwalks, wildlife viewing areas, educational kiosks, canoe access and fishing piers. Farther south, a walking-biking trail is set to be placed from downtown Jackson to Bemis.
The project has 450 acres of managed habitat types to maximize wildlife viewing opportunities — seasonally ponded wetlands, hardwood forests, warm season grasses and open water habitat.
“It’s about half the size of Central Park in New York,” Blackwood said. “What started this was, we had calls from farmers in the area about flooding, and (they) asked if there was anything we could do.”
Blackwood said about 50 square miles of urban area, or 32,000 acres, drain into the Middle Fork Forked Deer River at U.S. Highway 45, joining 170 square miles of forested and agricultural drainage for a total of about 140,000 acres — or about 220 square miles.
“Sediment impacts everything downstream from agriculture to hunting, fishing to wetland habitats,” Blackwood said. “Having a place to accept sediment also becomes a great recreational place that also is great for flood storage.”
Blackwood said connection of the City of Jackson and the Three Way community across the Middle Fork bottom, with future connection to the City of Jackson’s Civic Master Plan, would create miles of connected trails that extend to the Bemis community.