Corps of Engineers exploring commercial options for Cook Recreation Area, drawing concern from neighbors

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Posted at 6:48 AM, Mar 16, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Officials with the Corps of Engineers are exploring options to lease Cook Recreation Area, something that's caused concerns with neighbors and people who have enjoyed the park for decades.

The park sits on the east bank of Percy Priest Lake and offers picnic areas, walking trails and boat ramps.

Anderson Clark has been enjoying Cook Recreation Area for years.

"It's been a very special place for me," Clark said. "I have seen this area become a paradise for people who want to get away from the congestion of the areas around the lake and come out to be in nature."

That's why he was concerned when he learned the Corps of Engineers was looking into options to lease Cook Recreation Area.

"The real concern for me is the natural habitat that would be forfeited here by changing it into a commercial enterprise," he said. He also worried that the plan would open the door for a marina or another business in the area.

But the Corps of Engineers said that isn't the case.

"The plan is to determine if there is private interest in operating and maintaining a multi-purpose day use area," Freddie Bell, the Corps' Nashville Operations Manager, said. "This is not an attempt to open the door to a marina or waterpark, that is not our plan, this is not a build to suit initiative."

Instead, Bell said the Crops wants to create a public-private partnership, where a company could be responsible for upkeep and could reopen campground that has been shuttered since 2004.

"Our framework for success would be to keep the same type of recreational facilities that exist now," Bell said.

But Clark said whoever partners with the Corps will have to make money somehow, and he worries he'll watch it come at the expense of longtime park-goers.

"I cant see how any investor would want to come in and put the kind of money into the investment to rehabilitate the campground and not figure out a way to get their money back out of it."