Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reviving Browns Creek requires a larger vision

I truly wish that groups like South Nashville's Neighbors for Progress (and behind them South Nashville Action People) would have made the restoration of Browns Creek their major cause rather than simply using the waterway as pretense for closing down the Fairgrounds and demolishing the racetrack. However, to do so would require a much larger focus than the Fairgrounds question. It would have needed a broader coordinated effort across the entire watershed of all of the Browns Creek forks that lie upstream from the Fairgrounds.

It seems a shallow environmentalism, a convenient waterkeeping that supports the Mayor's plans for the Fairgrounds while ignoring his plan's promotion for more automobile traffic redevelopment. The Mayor's Office insists that the property's proximity to the interstate, which itself produces polluted run-off, calls for a corporate campus. With both major interstates over or near the creek, increased traffic further pollutes the creek, with or without a race track. Even if some in NFP advocate a Green Hills type commercial development instead of a corporate campus, think about what a vehicular nightmare Green Hills is.

In my opinion, if NFP had won the day last month and the racetrack would have been torn down to make way for a sliver of the total 117 acres to become a greenway/park the chatter about saving Browns Creek would have died down. Browns Creek deserves more comprehensive help including a solution to public roadway run-off.

It also deserves waterkeepers who are seriously committed to the long-term rather than those who use it as a means to take out the Fairgrounds or establish some boutique shops. They should consider waterkeepers like this guy in Alabama, who has documented the effects of the BP oil spill on Gulf waters for months:


  1. Mr. Byrd, we would document Browns Creek if we had access to the property. The blogger of southnashvillelife.com has done a good job of documenting what she is able to document. You see there is a 6 foot chain link fence with three strains of barb wire that surrounds most of the property. Here is a quote taken from the Tennessean by Lewis Laska the Fairgrounds Preservation Groups

    Accord­ing to Laska, “toxic waste pits” dot the prop­erty where Dean has pro­posed to add open green space along Browns Creek. .

    How did the toxic waste pits get there Mr. Laska?

    If you want to help get the fair board to remove the nasty chain link fence with barb wire off of the property...

    Turn your volume up.

  2. Anon: You mean you would document only a tiny fraction of Browns Creek, whose watershed extends from the Cumberland River in the north across Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhoods, south to Green Hills and 100 Oaks. Its 3 branches both sit next to and cross under 2 major interstates and some large industrial areas. Are you going to document all of the polluted run-off in those areas, too? My guess is that once the racetrack got torn down the "Protect Browns Creek" movement would fizzle, and the creek would be just as polluted as ever.

    There is no denying that the plan that Neighbors for Progress was fundamentally and ironically flawed.

    SNAP backed a plan that would have produced more daily vehicular traffic on both interstates, collector streets, and neighborhood roads to a 6,500-worker corporate campus than the racetrack ever could. Adding more Green Hills-style stores would have generated more polluting cars after the workers went home and into the weekend. The assault on the creek would be perpetual rather than intermittent.

    Karl Dean's point that the Fairgrounds sits unused for most of the week (which is debatable), is actually a net gain for Browns Creek. Less use means less cars, which means less polluted run-off on roads in the Browns Creek watershed.

    You cannot without contradiction have it both ways: you cannot promote car-centered growth at the Fairgrounds on the basis of the argument that race cars are polluting Browns Creek. Welcoming the prospect of exponential increases in daily pollution does nothing to stop existing pollution.

  3. Hey Mike,
    I don't disagree that there needs to be continued discussion on how to restore and prevent pollution of ALL of Browns Creek, not just the section that runs through the fairgrounds. I have had discussions with Sandra Moore on ways to raise awareness of the creek, though admittedly those discussion haven't gotten too far yet. But it is something I plan to pursue.

    However, when talking about SNAP and Browns Creek, consider the context. SNAP's history with Browns Creek thus far is that the group has participated in Metro's Adopt-a-stream program several times for the section that runs through the fairgrounds. That section is where we've done our clean-ups, that's where we've seen first-hand the effects of the racetrack on the creek. Thus making it one reason out of many (emphasis on many) to get rid of the track.

    Also, I believe your Green Hills' statement is referring to a comment made by Keith Moorman. I can't speak for Keith, but I don't think anyone wants the traffic nightmare that Green Hills' has. Personally, I wasn't crazy about his comparison. But I do believe his intention was to say that our area of Nashville would be more successful with the development of businesses that actually offer services to the people that live here, something that we currently lack. The fairgrounds offers the best opportunity for that.

    My knowledge on the Complete Streets program is somewhat limited, but hopefully, if the program is implemented along Nolensville Pike during future development of the area, this would ultimately result in less traffic, not more. Making the area pedestrian friendly would give the surrounding neighbors more opportunity to leave their cars at home.

  4. Mike,

    I agree with Jen. I don't agree that SNAP or any individual actually endorsed any plan by the Mayor because there wasn't an actual plan presented to the neighbors. I would say if anything there is support for the idea or theory for what has been suggested for the property but no endorsement of anything because nothing concrete has been presented. I can't speak for Keith but I know he supports the idea of developing the property but I don't think he would be supportive of doing any type of development that would be detrimental to our quality of life and to the environment. When the time comes to make a decision regarding the property I'm sure the planners will look at the area you live in (Germantown and Salemtown)as well as other areas within the 440 loop to get ideas on what works within an Urban area. I know you and your neighbors are proud of your neighborhood and you should be because it would be an amazing place to live. I hope you will consider joining us when we have the next Browns Creek clean up day. Have a nice day.

  5. Anon. SNAP has endorsed EVERY plan that has come from the Mayors office.
    Snap endorsed Moving the State Fair, Moving the Expo /Flea Market events to Hickory Hollow and redeveloping the Fairgrounds property into a multi use, corporate campus.
    When the Hickory Hollow plan failed. (Because it was a terrible idea that had tax payers on the hook for Millions with James Weavers client, CBL),
    Snap instantly changed its tune and endorsed the Flea Market/ Expo events staying in place. (As long as the race track went away).

    The plan to put a corporate campus on the property with a pipe dream number of 6,500 employees meant 6,500 cars in the parking lot on a daily basis. It also means at least 6,500 more cars traveling thru the neighborhood each day.
    The impact on the creek would be immense. Yet, Keith Mooreman, Snap, Jen Trail, and even yourself have shouted that this is the best for the area.
    News flash....You can't have a healthier creek with run off from 6,500 + cars added to the area on a daily basis.

    As for the racetrack impact on the creek, TSMP says that the effects are minimal compared to the effects of the industrial run off, the massive parking lots, and the storm water drainage that funnel into Browns creek or any other water way in our county.
    Your argument that the race track is killing the creek just doesn't hold water.
    I'm not saying that the track has no effect on the creek. ANY asphalt surface adds to the surface run off.
    Here is something that you may not realize.
    Race cars do not leak. If a leak is detected, it is fixed. Any fluids that are leaked are cleaned up and disposed of properly.
    Now, look in any parking lot that is used daily, pick your local grocery, coffee shop, eatery, any high volume parking lot. If you look, you will find where street cars leak. You will find large areas of oil drenched pavement. What happens when it rains?
    It washes off the lot, into storm drains, and into the creek.
    As for a concrete plan being presented for the Fairgrounds, one has indeed been presented by the Fairgrounds preservation group and Save My Fairgrounds.
    You can see it here

    Take a look, tell us what you might want to add. One neighbor has already suggested the addition of a dog park to the plan.
    If the neighborhood folks would like to sit down and discuss the plan, we can join forces and take a plan to the city. Forcing them to take action now.
    Their is no reason for the park construction to not start immediately.
    The planning process for the mitigation of Browns creek will take at least 12 months from the moment that TSMP is given a green light. That is 12 months before the first spade of dirt is moved to mitigate the creek.
    TSMP can design stream mitigation with this plan.

  6. In my opinion(and maybe I'm under-formed on the matter) the Brown's Creek debate is nothing but a PR stunt dreamed up by the mayor's office. I drive be it often. It's just another dry creek to me that fills up with rainwater. Yeah, I'd like to see it cleaned up and be a linear habitat for wildlife, but it's no Radnor Lake. I certainly wouldn't make it a central point to the debate of what to do with that area. The only reason Dean even brought it up was for a photo op and to throw in an emotional wrench for SOF and SNAP people to fight over. It's a diversion tactic.

  7. Your argument about the environmental effect of development compared to the current uses doesn't hold water. Your side says that you all get over a 1,000,000 visitors annually to Nashville Expo Events, Fair, and Racetrack. So, I don't think people coming to these events are walking. Any new construction on the property will probably guarantee that all the buildings are LEED certified and I would imagine that there will not be a vehicle park anywhere close to where it could negatively impact Browns Creek. I'm not endorsing anything other than removal of the racetrack and I having nothing against racing, Nashville has just out grown the track. I do appreciate your spirit and passion though. Cheers...

  8. Boyer, A PR stunt it may be. But, for the neighbors and the long time users of the Fairgrounds, it is something that we have all been asking to have it beautified and mitigated for over a decade.

    I do not see how the building of the park and mitigation of the creek can not get started now.

    If the neighbors would join forces with the Fairgrounds folks, We could see near immediate action on beautifying the Fairgrounds.

    As it is, the Mayors office is working hard to split the two and dangling the park and creek as an elusive carrot.

    IMO, The only way we will get the park area, walking paths, and the greening of the Fairgrounds is if we join forces and turn the tables on the mayors office. The Council will see this as a step in the right direction, people finding common ground, and pass this thru with flying colors

  9. Mike, The TSMP agrees with your statement,
    "It would have needed a broader coordinated effort across the entire watershed of all of the Browns Creek forks that lie upstream from the Fairgrounds."
    Many have asked, Why the Fairgrounds?
    Why so far down stream?

    TSMP told me that they see this project as a showcase. They hope that the 1.2+Million people that attend the Fairgrounds annually will see this project and be inspired to mitigate other areas up and down stream and other streams thru out the region. If this project inspires others to clean up and mitigate stream area, the watersheds will all benefit.

    I went to the link that you provided in your story.
    It sent me to the neighbors for progress site
    A section of NFP's page concerning Browns Creek reads:
    The Problem
    The reality is that the racetrack requires a significant amount of sewer and power lines to continue to operate. These and other parts of the racetrack's infrastructure, as well as the pollution it creates, are stalling the TSMP from beginning the Browns Creek restoration.

    This statement is not true. I asked TSMP about this statement. They informed me that they had never made such a statement.
    TSMP can mitigate Browns creek with the track in place. They simply need the go ahead from Metro.

    The entire watershed is in need attention. If the neighbors are passionate about stream mitigation and want to see it started ASAP, I beg them to come to the table, find common ground, join forces with the Fairgrounds preservationists, and take a plan of action to the council.

  10. Wow, not one response from the neighbors that are so truly concerned about Browns Creek.

    Not a single addition to the solid plan presented for the Fairgrounds. That must mean it's perfect.
    Check it out for yourself.
    Input to add additional services is always welcome.

  11. Do any of you non-racers understand that the race car engines are a highly technical piece of art. They are built with such precision that the odds of one leaking oil or any other fluids is very rare. On the occassions an engine blows up or any other malfunction that leaks fluid, the track immediately puts down an absorbent to quickly remove the fluids from the track. The race cars aren't where the pollution is coming from, it's people from all areas of Nashville that do it with their trash and chemical waste that they don't dispose of properly. Stop blaming the track just because you don't like or know anything about racing.