The next phase of the new park on Stringer's Ridge is set to begin in late March, according to Rick Wood of the Trust for Public Land, who recently spoke to the Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association about plans for the park and possible ways to connect it to the city.
He said 10 miles of trails, an easily accessible trailhead near Nikki's Diner and an overlook structure showcasing Chattanooga's "$2.5 million view" are the first changes the public will see.
"The goal is to have the trailhead and trails open by late summer," said Wood, adding that park users should park on the road until the parking area is open, not at Nikki's.
He explained that the River Gorge Trust holds the easements for the land on Stringer's Ridge in perpetuity, which will prevent anyone from ever clear-cutting the land, building something there or in any way altering the land aside from putting in soft surface trails.
The master plan calls for three to five miles of single track trails for mountain biking and three to five miles of multi-use trails with an easy difficulty rating for use by the general public. All trails will be marked and designated, he said.
Trail maintenance will be performed by user groups such as the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association as well as volunteers through the Friends of Stringer's Ridge group recently established by Leadership Chattanooga. A variety of volunteer opportunities are available with the group in April and May, such as being a docent, pulling invasive plants from the property and helping to build trails, said Wood.
Part of the land recently acquired for the park is in Red Bank, where the TPL is considering several ways to connect the city to the park. The TPL is talking with the landowners of connecting areas to see who is willing to work with the organization and help make the park more accessible, Wood said.
"We plan on having the boundaries be well-marked," he said in response to an adjacent homeowner's question about ways to prevent park users from coming onto her property to dig for Civil War relics.
Wood said plans are for the trails to include soft interpretive markers to help share the park's rich history.
"People are really interested in the history, and we're working on organizing a booklet for people who want to be docents on Stringer's Ridge," he said.
Work on the trails will begin in late March, and the construction of the trailhead near Nikki's should start in April depending upon permitting by the city of Chattanooga to build the parking lot, he said.
Technically classified as a city park, Wood said the Stringer's Ridge park will be open from dawn to dusk.