Land trust to identify which Chattanooga neighborhoods need parks

Land trust to identify which Chattanooga neighborhoods need parks

November 4th, 2013 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local - Breaking News

Rick Wood walks along a trail through the new Stringer's Ridge Park on Sept. 3, 2013, in Chattanooga. The urban nature park features foot and biking trails across 103 acres.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

The Trust for Public Land is working with Chattanooga officials to identify which of the city's 71 parks or greenways need a makeover and the neighborhoods in need of a place for families to play outdoors.

Last week the City Council renewed an annual $100,000 contract with the Trust for Public Land. Part of this year's agreement will be helping advise the city on how more residents can enjoy their neighborhood parks.

"We're excited about this opportunity because it's a real investment in neighborhoods," said Rick Wood, the nonprofit organization's area director.

Woods said the trust plans to present a list of projects by January identifying where the city can upgrade existing parks, improve access to those parks or build new ones over the next four years. Some projects could include advising where to put sidewalks or remove obstacles such as fences, he said.

City Economic and Community Development Director Donna Williams wasn't available for comment Thursday or Friday.

Chattanooga has about 4,000 acres of park space for recreation, including parks downtown, neighborhood parks, sports and recreational areas and linear greenway parks. The city's website lists 71 parks, recreational areas and greenway parks.

But a recent communitywide survey conducted by the city's Office of Internal Audit found that 30 percent of residents answering the survey never use the park closest to their house. And 41 percent of residents said they visit the city park closest to their home only a few times a year.

While the majority of residents surveyed said the park nearest to them was well maintained, 43 percent said they felt unsafe at the park nearest to their home at night. Only 13 percent of residents said they felt unsafe in local parks during the day.

Woods said if residents don't feel safe in their local park, the Public Trust for Land will examine why, such as looking at whether the parks are well-lit, well-maintained and have up-to-date playground equipment.

"We believe and know that good parks enhance the neighborhoods around them," he said. "But if it's a piece of property left alone and it's dark and not well lit, it's not going to be a place you play or take your family."

Mayor Andy Berke's spokeswoman, Lacie Stone, said the administration is working to ensure residents feel safe in their parks by staffing the police department at an all-time high.

Isabella Lane, president of the Foxwood Heights Neighborhood Association, said the Tunnel Boulevard neighborhood needs a park and there is currently a vacant piece of property where people dump trash.

"That would really improve the area, it certainly would," she said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.