published Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Chattanooga: Urban outdoors


by Amy Williams
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Gillian Bolsover Philip Grymes, Outdoor Chattanooga’s executive director, shows the organization’s new building to Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau president Bob Doak during a press tour of the Coolidge-park building Monday.

As Outdoor Chattanooga’s director, Philip Grymes, climbs spider monkey-style across the center’s indoor rock climbing wall, it’s clear the organization’s new center is no ordinary building.

And Outdoor Chattanooga is no ordinary organization.

The five-year-old city-funded entity celebrates Saturday its move into a modern facility that will let it expand its recreational offerings and become a one-stop shop for all things outdoors in Chattanooga. Besides the climbing wall, the building has space for gatherings and ample storage for Outdoor Chattanooga’s fleet of touring bicycles.

“From our new building,” Grymes said, “we will be able to host classes, special events and activities that will bring more people outdoors.”

Before the move, he and the other two employees — events coordinator Ruthie Thompson and bike fleet manager Minya James — had been stuffed into a small set of offices in the Development Resource Center a few miles away on Market Street. Now they have room to spread out, literally.

The new space is 6,000 square feet, and its location in Coolidge Park, the city’s busiest park, will allow for more interaction with the community, Thompson said. There will be guided bike rides leaving from the park, as well as kayak tours on the Tennessee River.

In addition to Outdoor Chattanooga-sponsored activities, the new facility will be available for use by other area groups. For example, the Choo Choo Fly & Tackle store plans to offer fly-fishing clinics at nearby Renaissance Park in conjunction with Outdoor Chattanooga.

There also are plans to move OutVenture, the activity arm of Outdoor Chattanooga, into the new center during the summer.

Grymes said he envisioned even more partnerships with the Tennessee Aquarium and OutVenture. There also are plans to add kayak and canoe storage nearby in the park. Individuals could rent space to store their boats near the river, he said.

In the future, memberships to the center itself will be sold, allowing bike commuters and others access to showers and lockers in the building.

“We see a lot of potential in the future,” Thompson said.

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