Rocky Top cabins can be removed for the Tecumseh curves project
The highly anticipated project to realign Highway 160 at the Tecumseh curves is once again on the Missouri Department of Transportation’s schedule.
Construction on the project was initially slated to begin in July 2020. However, complications involving the possible historical significance of several rock cabins at Rocky Top Resort and Campground caused work to be halted until a determination about their future was made. The original plans for the highway improvement would require that the cabins be moved or demolished to accommodate the needed right of way.
According to Pete Berry, transportation project manager with MoDOT, the State Historic Preservation Office recently ruled that the five rock-faced cabins are not of historical or cultural significance. This news means MoDOT’s original plans for the realignment of the curves can move forward.
“Our plan has gone back to our original plan,” Berry said.
Berry said the department is now in the process of appraising land and structure value of all property involved in the project in order to purchase the needed easement. Bids will be taken in November 2020 and will most likely be awarded during MoDOT’s December meeting.
Berry said his team’s goal is to have construction begin in January 2021 and for the project to be finished in December 2021 – only one month behind the project’s original goal date.
Though initially upset at the possibility of losing the rock-faced cabins, Rocky Top owner Joe Easterday told the Times in December that he had assumed the cabins would have to be demolished, and as a result, he and his wife, Diane, had made plans to expand the resort to the north of the current campground.
He said his family did not initiate the inquest into the historical significance of the cabins, and he was surprised when he was informed the project had been halted last fall to evaluate the cabins.
“We are not closing,” he said Tuesday morning. “We have plenty of room to expand and will be replacing the cabins [on the north side of the property]. When we are done we will probably have about 16 cabins [to replace the five].”
He said the rock cabins will still be available for guests this summer.
Recently, MoDOT asked for public comment on the project. According to a legal notice in the Feb. 19 edition of the Times, the MoDOT project will widen 1 mile of Highway 160, realigning two curves, adding guardrails to the south side of the highway and adding paved shoulders, starting on the west side of the Tecumseh Bridge.
Because the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Tecumseh access boat ramp on Norfork Lake is located within the MoDOT project area, the Corps will grant a permanent easement for the highway improvement. The entrance to the park and boat ramp will remain open, though at times entry into the park may take longer than normal because of construction activity, a MoDOT news release said.
According to Dylan Edwards, chief operations and maintenance manager with the Corps, the entrance to the lake access at Tecumseh will remain on the north side of the highway.
Public comments will be accepted until Wednesday, March 4. Feedback and comments may be made at www.modot.org/se-contact-us-general-inquiries, by emailing Berry at Pete.Berry@modot.mo.gov, by messaging on Facebook at facebook.com/MoDOTSoutheast or on Twitter at twitter.com/MoDOTSoutheast.