published Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Church gives land for city trail


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Larry Cook

A stretch of creekside property that meanders for about a mile and a half along North Chickamauga Creek soon could become one of Chattanooga's newest trails.

Clear Creek Church of Christ gave about 15 acres for a conservation easement to Chattanooga last month to help extend the North Chickamauga Greenway Trail.

"This is one of the single largest easements we've ever been given for the greenway master plan," said Rick Wood, executive director of the Trust for Public Land.

The church lies along North Chickamauga Creek adjacent to Hixson Pike. The Rev. Joey Davis, senior minister, said this week that church officials had been talking about granting the conservation easement for the last five years.

BY THE NUMBERS

* 17: Approximate mileage from Greenway Farm to North Chickamauga Creek Gorge

* 15: Number of acres Clear Creek Church of Christ donated for conservation easement

* 1.5: Approximate mileage of proposed trail on church property

Source: Trust for Public Land

Plans for the North Chickamauga Creek Greenway call for it to start at Greenway Farm and wander along the creek until it reaches North Chickamauga Creek Gorge. At that point, it will connect to the Cumberland Trail.

Mr. Davis said the property is home to an abundant amount of wildlife. He has seen deer, wild turkeys and blue herons.

"Whatever you can think of has made a home here," he said.

Larry Cook, executive director of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, said Tuesday that construction of a trail should begin soon. He said it has yet to be determined whether that part of the trail would be paved. He said portions of the trail would be built similar to those at Greenway Farm.

Building the trail would take some funding, he said.

"We think we have support to build the trail as quickly as we can," Mr. Cook said.

The church gave the land as a conservation easement because it wants to reach out to the community, Mr. Davis said. Church officials wanted a place they could share with all Hixson residents, he said.

"We want them to have a place they feel is safe and they feel is home," he said.

Mr. Wood said the location of the easement is about midway between the gorge and Greenway Farm. The easement allows construction of a trail and a canoe launch and also allows the city to maintain it and provide security, he said.

Other than that, the natural beauty of the area will be preserved, he said.

Larry Zehnder, parks and recreation administrator for Chattanooga, said the city, the Trust for Public Land and North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy were partners in acquiring the property from Clear Creek Church of Christ.

"It covers a large piece of property," he said.

Clear Creek Church of Christ bought the property almost seven years ago and built a new church on the site within the last two years.

Phillip Lynn, a church elder, said the church always had a goal of giving the property back to the community.

"We think God blessed us by giving us this property," Mr. Lynn said.

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