A proposed Rhodes Ferry Park splash pad would light up the Tennessee River shoreline while honoring Native Americans, but funding for the roughly $1 million project is still needed.
Plans for the Legendary Splash Pad include Cherokee folklore, plants used by the Cherokee and recognition that Rhodes Ferry Park was an off-loading port during the Trail of Tears, during which the Cherokee were relocated from Georgia and Alabama to Oklahoma.
The city received a $4,099 grant from the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area last year and provided matching funds to pay for design and engineering of the splash pad.
Decatur Grants Administrator Dana Pigg said the preliminary work provides the city a shovel-ready project for a National Parks Service grant, as well as other state and federal grants she expects will seek applicants in the fall.
Pigg said the project would be split into three phases, with the initial phase costing about $750,000.
Community Development Supervisor Allen Stover said private companies and the Cherokee Nation are interested in assisting the city with any grant matches.
“If the council chooses in the future to apply, we could present a very strong grant proposal,” Pigg said.
Shannon Keith was working on the project before becoming the city’s new assistant Parks and Recreation director. She said they “picked a Cherokee theme that would resonate with children.”
Sam Barnett, of GB Planning & Design, designed the Legendary Splash Pad. He said there will be splash pad areas geared toward young and older children. They will feature lighted sculptures of eight animals related to the story “The First Fire,” taken from Cherokee folklore.
In the story, a tree is struck by lightning and the animals come together in council to decide how they’re going to retrieve that fire, Keith said.
“There’s a lot of information about animal symbology, cultural symbology and spirit symbology in with the story. We try to interpret that in the project,” Keith said.
An artificial tree in the splash pad will be 35 feet tall. It will have features “that will provide water and a wind chime when the water isn’t running,” Barnett said.
“As a visitor to the park, you will encounter the spider and the tree, which is hit by lightning to start the fire,” he said.
Barnett said the lit splash pad will be visible to commuters and visitors coming into the city from across the Tennessee River.
He said the project will “tell story through the lights.” The tree will initially have a green glow. An LED mapping to simulate the lightning strike would involve some kind of strobe effect.
The tree would glow red because it’s on fire. The spider would carry the fire in the basket to the council area. Then it would start all over again, he said.
“The goal is to tell the story in just a few minutes,” Barnett said.
There would be seating for those who don’t want to get wet and those who do. It would be “a highly landscaped area that’s shady and a place you want to be,” Barnett said.
It would also have a learning center for how certain plants, which will be included in the project, were used by Native Americans.
The plans calls for improving the existing playground and having interactive elements all of the way to the pavilion. There would be a historic landing marker about the Trail of Tears.
A new restroom facility would be included.
“This would be a place with a lot of energy,” Barnett said. “A place where you can play but also enjoy from the distance as a focal viewing point.”