The Lookout Mountain Conservancy has added an additional 2.7 acres to John Wilson Park at the foot of Lookout Mountain thanks to a recent land purchase of eight different parcels.
Five of the properties affront Old Wauhatchie Pike and will help expand the park's entrance to the Chattanooga Riverwalk that is in the process of being extended to Lookout Mountain. Additional properties acquired in this purchase will also help fill in other pockets in the park to make it more contiguous across its 65 acres, which include the Guild-Hardy Trail.
"As far as acreage, it's not a large area," said Lookout Mountain Conservancy CEO Robyn Carlton. "We bought the majority of the new property where we understand the Riverwalk will connect. This will give the park a larger area for the entrance whether you're walking, trail running or riding a bike."
She said the acquisition also means that the conservancy has more space for things like an eventual parking lot.
"At this point in time, we don't have a solidified vision for how the park is going to be constructed in the future, but we're just trying to give ourselves enough land for options," said Carlton. "We've only got one opportunity to get this right for the public."
The conservancy has also applied for a grant that could shine light on how influential the park's land was during the Civil War.
"One of the things we know about this park is that it is in a core battlefield," said Carlton. "If we receive this grant it will allow us to hire a consultant to come in and do a historical review of the area."
After a determination is made about the park's historical significance, the conservancy will bring in a group of stakeholders to discuss how to best design the park moving forward, she said.
"What that's going to look like, we don't know," said Carlton. "Maybe some of this property is so historically entrenched that it needs to be turned over to the National Parks Service. Right now we have a lot of questions and the first step is getting that information."
Until the conservancy finds out in April whether or not it will receive the grant, it is working to spend grant funding it recently received from Tennessee American Water Company in conjunction with Howard High School to clean up a ravine already existing on the park's property.
Over the course of three work days and some additional work days over the holidays, students helped conservancy volunteers clear invasive plants and debris from the ravine. Carlton said the work days were not only productive but provided a great opportunity for the local students.
"These students had no knowledge at all about even what the tools were," she said. "But after the third time they came there had been such an amazing transformation. It's amazing what they did. I would've hired them over a professional landscaping crew."
Carlton said one of this project's unforeseen results is a newfound partnership with Howard High School that the conservancy plans to continue.
For more information about the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, visit www.lookoutmountainconservancy.org.