Discovery Park planners prepare for groundbreaking

Discovery Park planners prepare for groundbreaking

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2008 8:42 pm
By: Glenda H. Caudle Special Features Editor

By GLENDA H. CAUDLE Special Features Editor Only a few days ago, a weathered barn stood sentinel over acres of golden wheat near Union City’s northwest border. Today, the barn still anchors the site, but the wheat has been harvested and the fertile fields are now being prepared to bring forth a new crop — a crop of ideas put forth by Volunteer “farmers” who are anticipating a bounteous harvest. The first sowing of the seeds actually began a few years ago — when Robert Kirkland of Union City began to contemplate the idea of building an attention-grabbing museum that would serve to further educate the children of his home community, to entertain families from throughout the area and to draw tourists from around the country to northwest Tennessee. He discussed the idea with friends and family and kept an eye on the political climate — tracking the government proposal to construct a vertical bisector of the nation, popularly known as I-69, through Obion County. Such a highway would prove a valuable feeder for the visitors Kirkland hoped to attract to the museum. Then he counted the cost again (as a wise sower of crops always does), allocated several million dollars to bring the idea to fruition and scattered a few more seeds. These took root in the mind of a world-class Canadian architect from Ottawa, Ontario — a craftsman revered for his innovative and communicative style: Douglas Cardinal. The group of 200-plus citizen volunteers who expressed an interest in helping to plan the project were the next prime soil Kirkland stirred up. They have met repeatedly over the past eight months, both in groups comprised solely of the members and in sessions involving the architects, to decide what artifacts, ideas and programs should be featured in the park and to imagine how the spaces they occupy might take shape. All along, those first seeds have been carefully tended. Now, at 10 a.m. Tuesday, on a 50-acre plot just south of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Union City and just west of Second Baptist Church on Everett Boulevard, that promising early growth is going to be transplanted to the site that will burst forth over the next two years with the most unusual crop that has ever been grown in Obion County — or anywhere else in the vicinity: Discovery Park of America. Visitors to the event are advised to park at Second Baptist Church and be shuttled across the busy highway to the site where two dozen-plus special guests have been asked to don hardhats, aim their shovels and dig in — literally. For the Canadian visitors who have been invited to take part and/or observe, this event will be known as a “sod-turning,” another apt agricultural term for the project whose very architectural image evokes visions of fertile waving fields of wheat, gently moving life-giving waters and cool green meadows. And then there is the attention-grabbing 12-story glass tower, visible from miles down the ribbon of highway approaching the town, that will oversee the entire Discovery Park complex of museum, Pioneer Village and lush and beautiful gardens, plus the Visitor’s Center welcoming guests to Tennessee. The ultimate harvest promises to be a rich and varied one. Published in The Messenger 6.30.08

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