published Monday, November 29th, 2010

Trust seeks land for public to enjoy

by Cliff Hightower
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    Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Rick Wood, director of the Chattanooga office of the Trust for Public Land, hopes his organization can help facilitate using former rail lines along Anderson Avenue in Highland Park as a combination walkway and linear park. The little-travelled road that runs from Holtzclaw Avenue to Ridgeside is wider than normal because of a long-closed rail line.

Anderson Avenue in Highland Park is a chance for Chattanooga to save a green corridor in the midst of the city, a local preservationist says.

Before Anderson was a city street, a railroad ran along it. It's wider than most roads, almost 80 feet across.

Rick Wood, executive director of the Trust for Public Land, says the extra width is just right for a walking and biking trail alongside the street.

"There are opportunities in urban areas to look at rail corridors," he said. "We believe the city has some opportunity."

As Chattanooga becomes more urban, available land for public use becomes more scarce, Wood said. But there still is land out there that can be turned into public usage -- walking trails, parks and natural areas, officials said.

It is just a matter of finding it, said Larry Zehnder, the city's director of Parks and Recreation.

"Every bit of undeveloped land can be turned into a public use," Zehnder said. "There are properties that have yet to be developed."

The Trust for Public Land has helped acquire property atop Stringer's Ridge and gotten conservation easements for the Riverwalk, North Chickamauga Creek Greenway and the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway.

Trust officials now are drawing up plans on how to acquire more land atop Missionary Ridge for the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.

Zehnder said neither the city nor the Trust knows how much land could still be available because no studies have been conducted.

Wood said the Trust's first goal is to acquire land, especially along North and South Chickamauga creeks, for walking trails.


The Trust for Public Land has helped preserve many undeveloped parcels around Chattanooga in recent years, including:

* Saving Stringer's Ridge from development near downtown Chattanooga

* Helping to draft a working proposal on saving viewsheds around Missionary Ridge

* Acquiring land for North Chickamauga Greenway, South Chickamauga Greenway and the Riverwalk

Source: Newspaper archives

Old railbeds could be made into walking paths, and old industrial sites can be converted into parks like Renaissance Park, he said.

Some money from the water quality program could be used to buy land along creeks that is not suitable for development and turn it over for public use, he said.

Councilman Russell Gilbert, chairman of the City Council's Parks and Recreation Committee, said he favors making better use of existing public structures.

He said it has been a personal goal for years to connect the new Enterprise South Nature Park with South Chickamauga Creek Greenway. He says one way of doing it is to build bicycle and walking trails along city roads and sidewalks to connect the two.

"It's the most economical way," he said.

Zehnder said there are several ways to acquire land for public use. This year, his department acquired the old Hixson Middle School and is thinking of turning at least part of it into a public park.

The city's water quality program also is paying a dividend already by making some land available to the public, he said.

For instance, the city bought some often-flooded property along Hickory Valley Road a few years ago. Now the land is a practice facility for First Tee and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf program, he said.

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fairmon said...

I see more taxes for Chattanooga residents in our future. I can make it just fine without more land for public use. I would like to be able to keep my home and property for personal use. I would like to see businesses not burdened more so they can grow and create more jobs. How much excess money is in the water quality program? Should be a lot and the rate should be reduced.

Those that have a high value for acquiring and developing more parks and recreation should contribute to a fund for that purpose. That would be a clue if people really value the expansion of land for public use. I would prefer donating than have the king and his court confiscate it and skimming off their share before allocating.

November 29, 2010 at 1:37 a.m.
Tax_Payer said...

The city of Chattanooga is buying Tatum Park from a school, which is about 1/4 mile from Anderson Ave. Also, properties on Missionary Ridge is being subject to local tax payers to "preserve" the Confederate heritage.

Let's see, what else ...?

November 29, 2010 at 2:06 a.m.
EaTn said...

One of the most valuable pieces of property in the country is the NY Central Park and most everyone agrees that the foresight and continued support to preserve this natural area for all the people to enjoy is priceless. Such practice is the difference between the "we want it all now" or "we want to preserve something for our children" cities.

November 29, 2010 at 5:04 a.m.
NoMyth said...

I have to agree with EaTn on this one, at least with respect to downtown. Chattanooga could win an award for the 'most paved' city in America. There is barely a blade of grass between the 20 or so blocks between the river and Jefferson Park. The lack of thoughtful planning to include pockets of greenspace in Chattanooga has severely limited property value (not to mention aesthetics and recreational opportunity) in/near the downtown area.

November 29, 2010 at 6:40 a.m.
fairmon said...

NY's crime ridden central park is not immensely popular with most NY city residents. They do have a good publicity machine but crime is so common it hardly makes the news. If anyone visits NY they would be wise to avoid Central Park after dark.

A trust, an endowment or private money that desires to buy, develop and maintain common use land is no problem. The mayor and council can't manage what they have now so why encourage them to expand anything? Keep in mind the city is in debt and just rolled a bond at a cost of $15.6 million with the principle at approximately where it started. The only explanation from the council, "we have no choice" so no reason to think they will have a choice if others come due when interest rates are higher.

The old contaminated Farmers Market property for which the mayor and council paid over $700,000 after an individual bought it for back taxes of around $100,000 then failed to pay taxes on it that were never collected or deducted from the purchase price is a good example of their land management. The mayor's dream was a tax payers nightmare.

November 29, 2010 at 7 a.m.
NoMyth said...

Actually, Chattanooga's violent and property crime rates are significantly higher than NYC and most large U.S. cities. Contrary to the erroneous statement above, Central Park is immensely popular with residents of Manhattan and property along its boundary is among the most highly valued in the world.

November 29, 2010 at 7:26 a.m.
dave said...

I do not have statistics on Central Park but it is FAMOUS for muggers and robberies. As for another Urban Green Space...with the taxes sky-high and unoccupied building after building being torn down as they cannot find tenants and also cannot afford the high taxes it seems that our "green-space" is growing..or at least our rubble strewn field spaces. Do we need another Urban green-space? Several of the missionary ridge parks are closed due to drug dealing going on basically the police cannot keep up with the ones we have.

November 29, 2010 at 8:28 a.m.
champ1 said...

Central Park is famous and highly valued because of WHERE it is not because of What it is. Don't get the two confused. Now I am a big believer in the "broken windows" theory so I'd love to see abandoned and run-down properties put to a good use of some sort, however, doing so through our local government is a slippery slope. Developing green-space means that you also have to maintain that space, forcing you to budget for a future of outgoing expense when you don't actually produce any monies (i.e. our local government). That's why these things eventually fall into disrepair and misuse, since the day inevitably comes when you can't collect as much in taxes as you once did. It also means that we are giving our local government permission to use the sewer tax money as a "slush" fund which no one should be advocating. If the sewer fund has too many dollars, lower and discontinue the tax. Using excess funds for anything else should be out of the question.

I do have a sort of radical idea though for our local government to try if they want to raise revenue. Put your entire real-estate portfolio up for sale. All of it, from the courthouse on. See what comes in and consolidate around what's left. We've got to get serious about shrinking the size of our overblown and unsustainable way of governing.

November 29, 2010 at 9:24 a.m.
SDG49 said...

I have ridden bike trails all along the East coast & know they are a asset. Glad to know Mr Rick Wood & Larry Zehnder have a desire to help. HOWEVER many residents are waiting for executive talkers to FINISH the six mile old Rail Road bed in Soddy Along roadway (exact buss words used in todays article). Maybe these gentlemen can work together , or each take three miles to showcase their talents here in Hamilton county before other city residents provide land to go down a political PATH to nowhere. ?

November 29, 2010 at 9:59 a.m.
Beamis said...

How about selling that big white elephant known as The Chattanoogan? They still owe $120 million on its construction with no end in sight to the servicing of the debt. There are so many useless things this city owns that have been nothing but a rat hole for the taxpayers money. Let private funds buy this green space and volunteers maintain it and in the meantime I suggest the city get rid of some of its white elephants first before buying anything more!

November 29, 2010 at 10:18 a.m.

"Those that have a high value for acquiring and developing more parks and recreation should contribute to a fund for that purpose."

The Trust for Public Land does just that. Citizens contributed to The Trust who in turn worked with private property owners and local government to ensure Stringer's Ridge remained open and available for public use.

November 29, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.
fairmon said...

Apparently several responding to this article are willing to pay more city taxes to fund another piece of real estate for the city to own. How much do you think we should each pay to acquire develop and maintain it? I seriously doubt those supporting the initiative have any idea how much real estate the city now owns. Apparently the same people have no concern about the city owning non tax generating businesses that compete with those privately owned. IE; The Chattanoogan, Ross's Landing Marina, Two golf courses, a pharmacy plus others.

There is a lot of concern about the socialist tendencies of the federal government. would our city government qualify as socialistic? Remember who has to put the money in the ATM machine the king and his court keep using under the pretense it is to help us.

November 29, 2010 at 10:14 p.m.
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