769: Acres of land currently under National Park Service management on Moccasin Bend
12,000: Years of continuous human habitation in evidence on Moccasin Bend
250,000: Estimated visitors expected to come to Moccasin Bend once visitor experiences are in place
The revitalization of the city's riverfront was never meant to stop downtown — and it isn't — said Michael Wurzel, executive of Moccasin Bend National Park, which lies just beyond. Several decades ago, when Chattanooga was beginning its renaissance from one of the dirtiest American cities to a scenic and desirable place to live, one of the first questions leaders posed was what to do with Moccasin Bend, he said.
The area gained national park status in 2003, becoming the National Park Service's first and only National Archeological District.
The city is now moving forward with plans to connect the historically significant land to the rest of Chattanooga.
"We have a national park in the heart of downtown Chattanooga that offers a huge opportunity to increase quality of life and boost tourism," said Wurzel.
This spring, he said, citizens will begin to see plans take shape both for the enhancement of Moccasin Bend National Park, as well as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency's Northshore Public Spaces Plan to help residents easily access the park.
Wurzel said the National Park Service will select one of four different plans proposed for the Moccasin Bend park sometime within the next few months.
The four-part Northshore Public Spaces Plan seeks to improve the park's visibility and connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods to help bring more people into the park. The parts of the plan comprise the extension of the Riverwalk from Renaissance Park to Moccasin Bend, the improvement of Manufacturers and Hamm roads, the development of Manufacturers Park, and adding a north-south connection between Cherokee Boulevard and Manufacturers Road.
The first to be enacted is the improvement of Manufacturers and Hamm roads, for which the city has received partial funding, with work set to begin in mid- to late 2017. From 2 Northshore to the entrance of the national park, the roads will be redesigned, including the addition of a 10-foot-wide pedestrian and bike path, as well as street planters, trees and new lighting, said Wurzel.
To find out more about the park, visit the Friends of Moccasin Bend website at moccasinbendpark.org, where people interested in the park's mission are also encouraged to join the Friends group.