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Going Somewhere, a look back on the road to Veterans Parkway

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Millington Interim Mayor Linda Carter welcomes those in attendance Nov. 13 for the grand opening ceremony of Veterans Parkway.

The day after the nation observed Veterans Day, dozens gathered outside of the Millington Industrial Development Board Building to celebrate the near completion of Veterans Parkway.

Faces who were essential to the road’s creation and those who worked behind the scenes made their way to a white tent set up outside to reflect on the journey to Veterans Parkway.

And after City Engineer Darek Baskin gave his speech and IDB President Charles Gulotta thanked those in attendance, it was time to take two Ford vehicles provided by Homer Skelton down Veterans Parkway for a symbolic ribbon cutting. State Representative Barbara Cooper and Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland used oversized scissors to cut the ribbon provided by the Millington Area Chamber of Commerce to mark the offical opening of Veterans Parkway.

The road to Veterans Parkway started nearly 20 years ago under the leadership of Mayor George Harvell. Then in 2004 Mayor Terry Jones took the process to the next phase by hiring Baskin to develop a plan. Under the guidance of the next mayor, Richard Hodges, a $5 million loan was secured to get the construction off the ground.

“At that time Mayor Harvell envisioned a road that would connect and give access to our industrial park,” Interim Mayor Linda Carter said. “Mayor Jones, when he was elected, helped with the design and hired engineer Darek Baskin to do that. Mayor Hodges was here at the groundbreaking. And I’m fortunate enough to be here at the ribbon cutting.

“What a wonderful and exciting day,” she added. “It’s something that sets the stage for the future of Millington and actually for the whole north end of Shelby County for generations to come.”

That vision started to take shape when major construction started in December 2010. The heavy construction started that following March. The new road forms an eastern bypass around the center of Millington to connect the IDB area with Highway 51 to the west and indirectly with Paul Barret Parkway to the south.

Public access to Veterans Parkway came the weekend of Nov. 2. Now the process to hopefully bring more jobs, distribution and transportation to places like the Millington Regional Jetport is almost here.

The 1,600 acres where Veterans Parkway was built was donated by the U.S. Navy in 1993 after the Millington station base realignment. More than a decade later, Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Association approved funding for the project. The development became a 80 percent – 20 percent funding split with Millington providing $5.5 million of the $26 million.

Some of the driving forces behind the funding and getting Veterans Parkway completed took to the microphone last Tuesday like Congressman Steve Fincher.

“Whatever we can do to help, we’re here to serve,” he said. “Redistricting has moved us a little bit. But we’re still willing to help and do whatever we can. Moving forward is what this all about.”

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said the new road provides a welcome challenge to the leaders of Millington and Shelby County.

“This is a brand new adventure for us,” he said. “We look forward to what we can do to support you. To Mayor Carter,  you and your predecessors in the mayor’s office, you’ve done a great job of bringing us to this point.

“You’ve got a big challenge ahead of you as we move forward progressively,” Luttrell added. “I take my hat off to Millington, I take my hat off to North Shelby and I take my hat off really to the collaboration that exceeded the federal, state and local level that brings us to the point today.”

For now residents can see the development of Veterans Parkway through traffic signals on Navy Road, Church Street and on Highway 51.

With a couple of businesses already lined up, the next phase will be seeing buildings, parking lots and employees.

Baskin noted it was the generosity of the Navy that made it all possible. Luttrell said it’s no accident the newest road in Shelby County has a name Millington can relate.

“By naming this parkway the Veterans Parkway, it really highlights the significant role we know the veterans assumed throughout our communities,” he said.

 

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