Michelle Willard, The Daily News Journal, March 24, 2017
In September 2014, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency removed what remained of Brown’s Mill dam on the East Fork of the Stones River in Lascassas in hopes that it could be opened to boaters in the future.
Three years later, the Stones River is still closed to boaters.
“Brown’s Mill is not currently open for public access, but has been identified as a potential future access site as a part of the Murfreesboro Blueway System,” said Angela Jackson, director of Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department.
Like a Greenway, a Blueway is a river trail used for canoeing and kayaking, Jackson explained, adding they “serve a growing population of paddlers that want to protect and enjoy our rivers and streams.
“We do currently have designated river access points on the Stones River with a put-in at the Manson Pike greenway trailhead off Searcy Street and a take-out at the Thompson Lane trailhead,” she continued.
The Parks & Rec Department, along with the Stones River Watershed Association, identified 14 locations on the three forks of the Stones River that could be upgraded with boat access for paddlers in Murfreesboro’s Greenways, Blueways and Bikeways Master Plan.
Brown’s Mill in Lascassas was included on that list.
The mill, which was listed for a time on the National Register of Historic Places, operated from about 1820 until the late 1970s. A low dam was built on the East Fork Stones River to power the mill in 1829, according to records from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The city of Murfreesboro bought the mill site in 1981 to serve as an emergency water supply. The mill stood empty for years and collapsed during a restoration effort in the 1990s.
Using funding from Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative and State Wildlife Grants, TWRA began a dam removal process in 2013 to make the river accessible to the public for recreation with the intention of allowing boat access at Brown’s Mill.
After the dam was removed, TWRA said 25 miles of free-flowing river were created. It also opened an opportunity to access at the river at this point.
Jackson said the boat access is still planned, along with access at the other city owned sites — Cason Trail, Bridge Avenue, General Bragg Trailhead and next to the Murfreesboro City Schools office.
But there isn’t a timeline for developing the sites.
In the meantime, the city will continue to offer paddlers and others way to connect with the river that runs through town.
“Our Outdoor Murfreesboro programs offer canoe and kayak programs that include family floats, a summer kayak club for teens, and more,” Jackson said.
“We also partner with the Stones River Watershed Association every summer to offer ‘Boat Day,’ which is an opportunity for the public to come try kayaking and learn more about our watershed.
This year Boat Day is set for 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, June 24, at the Manson Pike Trailhead off Medical Center Parkway.
It gives interested paddlers a chance to try out different types of canoes and kayaks, as well as learn how to volunteer with Stones River Watershed Association.
Reach Michelle Willard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-278-5164 and on Twitter @michwillard.