Nashville, Tenn.'s 2010 floods along the Cumberland River sent water to a level not seen since the 1930s, bringing with it an unexpected level of damage, including to the Grand Ole Opry.

The flooding also had a significant impact on the assumptions of the design team working on the Cumberland Park project, located on a 6.5-acre site on the east bank of the Cumberland River. Planned as a "flagship" improvement for Nashville's riverfront revitalization plan, the sprawling park features a play area; stone climbing wall and a ropes and nets course; trails; outdoor amphitheater; and a restored gantry crane and catwalk projecting over the river. At the time of the flooding, the project team was still in the stage of producing construction documents. The Cumberland's breaching of its banks clearly showed the project's designers that they needed to make changes.

Civil engineer Barge Cauthen & Associates first altered its existing plans by making all electronic and mechanical equipment in the floodplain easily removable and relocatable in the event of a storm. Additionally, designers chose materials and plants that could withstand exposure to floodwaters.

Project designers included a number of features to ease maintenance and reduce the park's impact on municipal resources. On an annual basis, a cistern will capture an estimated 1 million gallons of stormwater from the park, parking lot and adjacent vehicular bridge. Once captured, the water is then filtered by a floating plant island and is finally reused for park irrigation. Compost bins provide a depository for organic wastes, allowing the city's parks staff to manage and reuse wastes on site. During the project's early earthwork stages, contractors discovered buried train scale pits, chemical storage tanks, concrete slabs and walls—and even several truckloads of discarded leather shoe soles. When possible, buried objects were kept in place to reduce costs.

Materials used for the project included stainless steel, water-resistant ipe wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for sustainability and locally sourced sandstone


Key Players

Owner: Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, Nashville, Tenn.

Contractor: Hardaway Construction Co., Nashville, Tenn.

Designer: Hargreaves Associates, Cambridge, Mass.

Civil Engineer: Barge Cauthen & Associates, Nashville, Tenn.


Submitted by Barge Cauthen & Associates