DENSO partners for new EcoPark

8 Jun 2015

Exercise, education and environmental awareness will be the cornerstones of a community EcoPark being developed on land adjacent to DENSO Manufacturing Athens Tennessee.

DENSO, along with its partners - the City of Athens Parks & Recreation Department and the McMinn County Economic Development Authority - plan to establish an 11.5-acre EcoPark to provide a safe place for employees and the community to walk, learn and immerse themselves in nature.

"DENSO grew up in rural Japan and preserving the environment has long been a part of our heritage," said Shawn Bryant, DENSO's manager of Safety, Health and Environment. "We wanted to develop an EcoPark that demonstrates DENSO's Japanese heritage while also creating an eco-friendly and educational oasis for employees and community. We hope that one day we can take kids from all around the area and teach them different ways to help protect the environment through the EcoPark."

The EcoPark will be developed on land owned and set aside by the MCEDA and will be completed in three phases, with the first phase scheduled for an October 2015 completion date.

"The EDA Board of Directors set aside the land for the EcoPark as a way to give back to the community and educate them on sustainable practices," said MCEDA Executive Director Kathy Price. "We are thankful for the vision of Shawn Bryant and (Athens Public Works Director) Shawn Lindsey and their contribution to this project."

Other tenants in the Athens-McMinn Interstate Industrial Park have expressed interest in helping with the venture.

"Sustainability has become important to industries as they focus on reducing their environmental footprint," said Price. "As a (Tennessee Valley Authority) Gold-designated Sustainable Community, the EcoPark advances our commitment to attract clean sustainable companies to the industrial park, which we envision to become a sustainable business park."

Phase One of the project includes an outdoor, Japanese-style pavilion and picnic area, which can serve as a meeting area for employees and an outdoor classroom for students. This phase will also establish a half-mile walking trail and Japanese fruit orchard to celebrate Japanese culture and teach students about food sustainability.

Phase Two will focus on renewable energy through the use of a windmill and solar panels. Once completed, DENSO plans to sell the green electricity to fund future activities and upkeep, as well as to make donations to environmental activities. This phase should be completed in late 2016.
Phase three will include a natural pond with natural plant filtering that will create a healthy sanctuary for wildlife and demonstrate water sustainability. Completion of this phase is targeted for late 2017.
"We are going to create a park unlike any other," said Lindsey. "This demonstration park, I think, will lead to great things in our area and natural environment."

Grants will be used to fund part of the project, including the wetlands restoration for the natural pond, but additional grant funding is still needed.

Community partners are also being sought to help in development of the project. Any individual or organization interested in helping should contact Lindsey by phone at 744-2746 or by fax at 744-2772 for more information.