MUSCLE SHOALS — Walking along the refurbished Rockpile Recreation Area on Wednesday, it was difficult to imagine the conditions it incurred after February flooding caused heavy damage to the Tennessee Valley Authority attraction.
A new pier at the boating ramp, as well as new playground equipment with safety fencing, upgraded rip rap, new split-rail fence, and fresh paving are among improvements at the popular and scenic park that officially reopened this week.
A total of 14.13 inches of rain fell in the Shoals in February, which was a record for the month, causing flooding throughout the region, according to data from the National Weather Service office in Huntsville.
On Feb. 24, the Tennessee River at Florence crested to 28.99 inches, which was the third-highest in history, according to the data. Flood stage is 18 feet.
The work also had involved a great deal of cleanup once flooding subsided in March.
"We've invested about $150,000 down here in total," TVA Recreation Specialist Derek South said.
That is part of some $2 million in work that the record-breaking February flooding necessitated throughout the TVA territory, South said.
Some $1.2 million of damages occurred at TVA's Pickwick Dam Campground in Savannah, Tennessee, he said.
"The rest was spread out, smaller projects around the valley," South said.
One of the largest costs for the Rockpile involved an $80,000 restroom to replace the one damaged in the flood.
The new restroom features flow-through vents that allow water to go through them without causing damage, South said.
The refurbished playground maintains a unique Tennessee River theme and now is fenced in. The rip rap along the waterfall area is raised higher than the previous one for additional safety.
South said there has been a great deal of public interest in repairing damage and reopening the park.
"It's one of a kind," he said. "There's not many access points for the public to come in and enjoy the river, the scenery, the wildlife and everything. There was an outcry of support from people wishing us to get this back in place, and we're glad to have it open. TVA is always looking for ways to provide public access."