Sunday, January 6, 2013

Two new parks to open in downtown Chattanooga

Chattanooga citizens will have two new parks to play in by spring 2013. They are the Main Terrain Art Park, off of Main Street, and Stringer’s Ridge Nature Park on the North Shore. These two parks will provide a diversity of activities for locals and tourists alike; bolstering Chattanooga’s image as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and will continue the urban renewal that began over 20 years ago with the opening of the Tennessee Aquarium.

The Main Terrain Art Park will open in three weeks, around January 24, 2013, and is the first downtown park opened in 15 years. It is located at the corner of West Main Street and Broad Street. The park was created from scratch, similar to Coolidge Park which opened in 1997. The area holding this park was just a few years ago an empty grass/rock lot. Now the area is a park that is highlighted by interactive sculptures, exercise stations and an island of green amidst a sea of concrete.  

The second park, Stringer’s Ridge Nature Park is scheduled to open sometime this spring. This park is a collaboration of The Trust for Public Land, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust and the City of Chattanooga.  Almost five years ago, the portion of Stringer’s Ridge that is set to become a nature park was up for residential development. Understanding how important this area was to the history and “greenness” of Chattanooga since it is one of the last completely forested areas in the area, these three groups went together to acquire the property saving it from becoming yet another set of condos.

According to Amber Lanier Nagle in an article published in "Get Out Chattanooga" (April, 2012), the 102-acre park will open in two phases, the first of which will be this spring. Phase one will have around 10 miles of new and enhanced old trails, an overlook area, parking, marked trail heads and trail signs. The finished product will have six trail heads, three have been earmarked for neighborhood access; a fly-over bridge; and a wooden elevated platform for visitors to view the Tennessee River as it flows through downtown Chattanooga. There are plans for integrated seating and interpretive exhibits that will highlight the history of the area. Five types of trails (map of trails) will be available designated by skill level ranging from an all-abilities trail that is family-friendly to am intermediate-level hikers and trail runners trail.  There is also a trail available for intermediate-level hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers.

This area of Stringer’s Ridge has been used for years by mountain bikers, hikers and the homeless alike. Many of the trails incorporated into this park are already in existence and have been “spruced up” for better access. Within the past two years, my husband acquired permission to metal detect the area and we went on a little backpacking trip through there. At first the trail was pretty easy to follow, although we did have to step around someone sleeping across the trail. A little ways into our hike, we came across a “tent city” of homeless individuals and the trails were full of trash.  As we plunged deeper up the ridge, the trails became more difficult to follow but were cleaner. Eventually, we came across the foundations for some old homes and one wooden home that was falling in. I am intrigued to see if these historic sites are a part of the park and, if so, what the planners have done with them. Overall, I enjoyed hiking this area when it was in the rough, and cannot wait for the opening this spring.

Cool Accessories for the hiker and mountain biker in all of us....