published Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Chattanooga's Lincoln Park residents to learn more about road studies

Homes are seen behind a tennis court in Lincoln Park at the north end of Central Avenue in Chattanooga. Officials are considering an extension of Central Avenue to Amnicola Highway that would cut through the segregation-era park and Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Homes are seen behind a tennis court in Lincoln Park at the north end of Central Avenue in Chattanooga. Officials are considering an extension of Central Avenue to Amnicola Highway that would cut through the segregation-era park and Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

It's been a year since Lincoln Park residents won what they thought was an agreement to preserve the historic park in its entirety.

But on Tuesday they will learn more about an assessment of the park and a study that could influence the route for the planned Central Avenue connector.

Meanwhile, residents feel like any sense of control they had is gone.

"We're just getting lip service," said 76-year-old Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association President Vannice Hughley. "They're going to do what they're going to do anyway."

Despite Lincoln Park residents' concerns, city spokeswoman Lacie Stone said Mayor Andy Berke's office is committed to preserving the park.

"We have stated from day one that no road will go through the park," she said.

When Berke dedicated Lincoln Park to residents last August, they thought the park would remain intact.

But in October 2013 city officials showed residents one possible route for the Central Avenue connector that residents say could take a portion of the park's tennis courts.

Stone said she doesn't think it would, but she's not sure.

The city will host a meeting Tuesday to discuss the historical and cultural resources in Lincoln Park, according to Stone. Representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office, the city, Tennessee Department of Transportation's environmental division and Lincoln Park leaders will be present.

At that same meeting, residents will learn about progress on a study conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act. The findings will aid in the selection of the preferred road route.

The nearly $6 million proposed Central Avenue connector is intended to make UTC more pedestrian-friendly, give easier access to Erlanger and make it easier for trucks to get to Amnicola Highway.

In October 2013 the Erlanger Health System committee voted to give the Lincoln Park land to the city in exchange for the city giving Erlanger eight acres of land in Alton Park to be used for the future construction of a new Southside Community Health Center. The city said it would give the land to the community for the park.

The City Council approved the swap in July. But Erlanger hospital said it was still trying to work out details about how the land transfer will occur. Hospital officials said they are also waiting for the results from the NEPA environmental study.

"Once the park is transferred to the city, the Trust for Public Land will engage the community -- residents of the neighborhood, local business owners, Councilman [Moses] Freeman -- to develop a realistic vision for the park," wrote Stone in an email.

Hughley's faith that the park will be restored is wavering, but she said she can't stop fighting because the park is so dear.

It was the only park in Chattanooga that blacks could attend with no stipulations during segregation. Blacks could go to Warner Park only during the fair. After the fair, blacks had to leave.

Negro League baseball teams played at Lincoln Park. Black families picnicked there with no concern of segregated water fountains or designated areas for blacks because the entire park was their home.

"It was the only place we had," Hughley said.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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