History is not an issue on Arch St.

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 27, 2004

In a letter to City Clerk Vickie Taylor, the Alabama Historical Commission approved the archeological report required for the proposed Riverwalk Project, moving the project forward another step.

Two sites of concern contained material culture belonging to historic Euro-American occupation of the area, according to the Alabama Historical Commission. Before allowing the project to be approved, the commission asked the city to have a study done by a professional archaeologist to determine if any are subject to ground disturbance could be potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Taylor read the letter of approval, received Thursday, to the Arch Street Riverwalk Committee members during its Thursday afternoon meeting.

“Based upon review of the cultural resource assessment conducted by the Office of Archaeological Research at the University of Alabama, the Alabama Historical Commission has determined the following. We agree with the report’s findings that (the two sites) will be preserved by placing geotextile fabric and/or gravel beneath the trail surface and over the archeological sites. This action will avoid impacting the sites and allow the project to move forward,” she read.

But the survey was only one piece of the entire project, and committee chairman Jay Shows said while the committee can work on more specific designs, it needed to tread lightly.

“Let’s not move very fast on this. Austin Caldwell asked us to hold off on any concrete decisions until after the election,” he said. “We’ve honored our commitment to Austin, I think now we can go forward as we have wanted to.”

Part of the process of moving forward was to have a question and answer session with Chip Cates, an engineer with Almon Associates, an engineering firm that has worked with the city before and completed the riverwalk in Tuscaloosa.

The major question facing Cates was the question of how much the design phase was going to cost the city, since it was not included in the grant. His answer was $30,000.

“That does include doing some structural work on the docks, but that could go up if major structural work is required,” he said. He told the committee members gathered that at most the figure would increase by about another $10,000,

“It wouldn’t double or anything,” he said. He also informed the council that the figure quoted did not include oversight fees, and that could cost as much as $600 per week for approximately eight weeks, for a total of almost another $5,000.

“We’re just trying to ascertain what engineering fees, should the city decide to go ahead with this project, would be incurred by the city,” Shows said. “We want to do our homework so there are no surprises.”

To make sure all questions were answered as thoroughly as possible, Cates agreed to take a walk with committee members along the proposed Riverwalk following the meeting.

As almost side notes, committee members Louise Reynolds and Kirk Brooker brought up issues of concern to local residents.

Reynolds brought a copy of the Demopolis police reports that were published in The Democrat Reporter, noting several incidents of criminal mischief and vandalism at the city landing.

“This is the kind of thing the residents are worried about,” she said.

Reynold’s remarks led into Brooker’s issue, which focused on maintenance and upkeep of the Riverwalk Project once completed.

“When the Botanical Gardens were put in place, that was a wonderful idea and a wonderful project, but you can see what it looks like now because of lack of maintenance,” he said. “And the fence around the Botanical Gardens, look at what lack of maintenance has done to that. I just don’t want this project to go ahead and five years down the road have it look like those do.”

After setting a tentative date of Wednesday, Sept. 15 for the next meeting, the committee called an executive session.