Southern towns sometimes lack widespread sidewalk systems, but communities around the region are making strides to convert unused public property into space known as greenways for people, pets and bicycles.
Noel McDaniel, one of Hamilton County’s park supervisors, said county and city projects have changed the face of Chattanooga’s shoreline, and people have responded beyond anyone’s expectations.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber -- Mike Caraccio runs about three miles, three times a week from Riverpoint, an entrance to the 14-mile Riverwalk.
“I’ve seen (the Tennessee Riverwalk) grow from being just the three-and-a-half-mile trail to what it is today,” he said.
Walkers, joggers and cyclists are coming to downtown Chattanooga to enjoy the outdoors, he said.
“The whole area of the River-park is used a lot,” he said. “I see it growing each year.”
While the Chattanooga area has preservation efforts such as the county’s 14-mile-long Riverwalk and projects that connect it to the city’s 21st Century Waterfront, officials in Dalton, Ga., and Cleveland, Tenn., also are pursuing the idea.
Amy Moore, assistant to the Bradley County mayor in Cleveland, Tenn., said a local judge “thought it would be a good opportunity for his juvenile (offenders) to serve their community service working on the greenway.”
That idea launched projects that now are tying historic and scenic parts of town together, Ms. Moore said.
“Originally it was difficult for them to see when we built our first phase,” she said. The half-mile path that didn’t connect to anything left some people thinking it was a trail to nowhere, she said.
“The complaint I’m getting now — we’re officially getting ready to open phase three — is that it’s too crowded and ‘what are we going to do?’” she said. “That’s music to my ears.”
Dalton, Ga., City Administrator Butch Sanders touts that city’s Civitan Park and bicycle and walking trails at Heritage Point.
Projects are under way to add five miles to the Saul Raisin bicycling trail, previously published reports state.
Greenways help communities preserve resources in the face of development, said Rex Boner, vice president and Southeast area representative of the nonprofit environmental organization The Conservation Fund.
“In our communities, we see the landscape changing around us daily to non-natural uses,” Mr. Boner said. “People are beginning to recognize that if we don’t take steps to protect our natural resources, they’re not going to be there.”
Greenways focus on natural, historic, cultural and scenic resources,” he said. “In terms of greenways, it might be designed to link those up.”
Some of the region’s smaller towns are following suit.
Jasper, Tenn., residents lost their walking path to a large sports complex, said Mayor Billy Simpson, so officials sought a replacement in tracing a path through the town’s public properties. The 4,250-foot trail is a favorite of frequent user Vicki Layne, who walks the path a couple of days a week.
“I come here on my lunch hour,” Mrs. Layne said. She likes Jasper’s path for its “safety and convenience,” she said.
Trenton, Ga., was awarded funding for a streetscape project that Mayor Anthony Emanuel said “will change the face of this town.” Other projects include Town Creek Trail, a path that winds through town and underneath its main street.
Mr. Boner with The Conservation Fund said each project is “a snowflake” that must be tailored to a community’s needs.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...