The long-awaited airport wetlands mitigation project began Monday as heavy equipment moved onto the former Rolling Hills Golf Course.
The project was placed on hold after two neighbors in Rolling Hills subdivision refused to allow work on their properties.
Vice Mayor Avery Johnson said Monday morning he is glad to see the project move forward after so many years of delays.
“It has been a long time coming,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a lot of people calling me about it, especially neighbors who wanted to see something out here.”
The city of Cleveland purchased 21 acres of the former Rolling Hills Golf Course for the mitigation program in late 2009. The Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority signed the wetlands mitigation agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in late November 2009. That agreement approved $310,000 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to purchase the property from Ron Barker. Barker bought the property for a small development, but he abandoned the plan after neighbors objected.
About half of the 21 acres bordering Freewill Road on the west end are expected to be transformed into bottomland hardwood forest with trees planted at a density of 400 trees per acre or about 4,000 trees. An expanded cart path will circle the site. There will be a 3-foot buffer zone on either side of the path that will be kept mowed by the city of Cleveland, much like the walking path alongside Home Depot off Paul Huff Parkway.
Mosquitoes and other insects will be controlled by natural means. The water features will fed by underground streams that will keep them from becoming stagnant.
Resident Ron Williams moved into Rolling Hills subdivision 37 years ago because of the golf course. The course was sold in about 2006. This is an event he and his neighbors anticipated. If it can’t be a golf course, then a wetland is the next best use, he said.
“After a long, long wait, this is finally going to happen and it’s good. It’s good for the community. It’s good for Rolling Hills Drive and I think it’s going to be good for flood control.”
Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority member Verrell Norwood said the opening of Cleveland Regional Jetport is in sight and everything is coming together at a fast pace. Contractors expect to finish the apron area and begin pouring the concrete runway next week.