The future of Chattanooga parks is already here, and it's more than just an area of grass for picnics or soccer.
One new park called Main Terrain and a recent addition to Warner Park are proof that Chattanooga parks are moving toward places that emphasize wellness and provide much more than just an empty tract of grass.
"With Main Terrain it's kind of like a quartet of initiatives we're talking about," said Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Administrator Larry Zehnder. "We've got the general idea of an urban park area, the arts - both visual and literary - health and wellness and the introduction of improving water quality in a park area. We're taking four initiatives into one site development. It's the first of its kind in Chattanooga."
The new 1.72-acre park, located between West Main Street and West 13th Street, will feature sculptures by local artist Thomas Sayre, a running track, fitness stations and an area for stormwater collection that will both help with citywide stormwater runoff issues and provide an irrigation system for nearby plants.
"Sustainability is the key word," said Zehnder. "We're trying to be not just a great place to visit, but a functional aspect of our city as well."
According to him, the design of the park will make it possible to naturally filter and use water that previously would have cost the city to treat.
"Renaissance Park is a perfect example of another local park using natural processes to clean up rainwater," Zehnder said. "To me, that's being responsible and proper stewards of the environment, which is something really important to us."
Another key aspect of the park is its wellness component, he added.
"We are concentrating on wellness as a lifestyle change issue," he said. "It's something we really want to emphasize, with projections showing that 50 percent of adults will be obese in 2013."
Much like the recently implemented wellness trail at Warner Park that incorporates outdoor exercise equipment into the already existing green space, Main Terrain will feature similar wellness stations and a track that encourages people to actively use the space for exercise, said Zehnder.
The public art component, a nine-part sculpture, will be movable, thereby also encouraging physical activity along with interaction.
"Trying to get artists and exercise physicians to come up with play equipment you can work out on that's pleasant to look at has been somewhat of a challenge," said Zehnder. "But they've been able to create a really interesting piece that people can get physical results from moving around."
In addition to the visual arts component, haiku poems will also be part of the walking track so that people can learn a new form of literary art while running or walking, he said.
The new park was made possible in part by a $250,000 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant that was matched by a combination of funds from the Lyndhurst Foundation and the city of Chattanooga.
Main Terrain will officially open to the public by the end of this year, according to Zehnder.
For more information contact Chattanooga Parks and Recreation at 643-6081.