MUSCLE SHOALS — The boat ramp at the Rockpile Recreation Area has reopened following the severe February flood, but it could be another three months before the rest of the popular area is open to the public.
The Tennessee Valley Authority closed the park after flooding left much of it under water. It remained closed until July 3 when the boat ramp and pier were reopened.
Derek South, of TVA Natural Resources, said the area beyond the boat launch parking lot will remain closed.
In addition to damaging the pier at the boat ramp, the floods damaged the restroom facility, the one-of-a-kind Tennessee River-themed playground, roads in the park, and the perimeter fence.
TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said it appears the floods created a new outfall point at the waterfall near the Wilson Dam powerhouse at the other end of the park.
He said it's going to cost about $200,000 to make repairs to the park.
South said the pier at the boat launch has been completely overhauled, including a new aluminum surface. He said the ramp should remain open the remainder of the year, except when major construction is taking place in the park.
The restroom facility will take a little longer to repair, South said. Before it can be rebuilt, the proper environmental, cultural and archaeological assessments must be conducted. Wilson Dam is on the National Register of Historic Places.
"These are federal laws, not TVA laws," South said.
The Alabama Historic Commission can also weigh in on the appearance of the new structure to ensure if fits in with the architecture and color of the dam itself.
South said TVA is working with CXT Concrete Buildings, which will build a reinforced, prefabricated concrete restroom facility with male and female restrooms with single flush toilets on each side.
"They're built to withstand really harsh conditions, high winds and flooding," South said. "It's much cheaper to do this than to reconstruct the building from scratch."
CXT will design the structure, remove the old restroom building, then build the new structure on a concrete slab and make the necessary plumbing and electrical connections, South said.
He said CXT buildings are used in state and national parks across the country.
"It will be a bit smaller than what was there," South said. "What really caught our eye was the durability and functionality."
The prefab restroom building is about half the cost of constructing a new concrete block building similar to the one there now. That building dates back to the 1970s.
TVA officials are still working with the company on the exterior treatment, but it will likely be a tan color to match the color of the dam.
TVA is also working with the company that built the playground.
"We were able to get funding to put a chain-link fence around the playground with a secure gate," South said. "Parents can shut the gate and feel confident their kids are going to be secure."
South said TVA Natural Resources is seeking funding to have the wood perimeter fencing rebuilt. Many of the posts and slats were recovered.
Damage to the road in the park, especially near the waterfall, will be repaired by TVA's paving group as funding allows.