Less than two weeks after Lincoln Park residents learned city and Erlanger hospital officials agreed to a deal that paves the way for the restoration of their neighborhood park, those residents said they did not get what they really wanted after all.
"They gave me what they wanted me to have," said Vanice Hughley, president of the Lincoln Park neighborhood association.
On Oct. 24, Erlanger's board of trustees agreed to give 5.3 acres of land so the historical park could be preserved for neighborhood use. In return, the city gave Erlanger about eight acres in Alton Park for potential development as a community health center.
Jeff Cannon, the city's chief operating officer, told Lincoln Park residents during a meeting last week it is not every day that a hospital gives away 5.3 acres of land.
"It's incredible that the mayor has got Erlanger to the point where they have given this back to the community," said Cannon. "I don't know that you can look to another example of that being done."
Cannon said the city followed through with requests from the residents.
"We gave you what you asked for," he said at the Oct. 29 meeting with more than two dozen residents and concerned citizens to talk about the city's pledge not to go through Lincoln Park when extending Central Avenue.
The road extension will run more than eight feet away from the park and will be two lanes. Lanes will be lines with trees and lights and a bike lane will connect to the Tennessee Riverwalk. Trees also will be planted in the median.
Hughley said she asked that the Lincoln Park community receive all that is left of Lincoln Park, including the blocked-off road going around the park, the bathrooms outside the ballfield and the former swimming pool area.
She said she did not voice her concerns at the Oct. 29 meeting because "people in the meeting would have jumped all over him [Cannon]."
Tiffany Rankin said the remainder of the land residents wanted for the park will be taken up by the proposed Central Avenue road extension.
"When they dedicated the park to us in August, we didn't realize that part was going to be excluded," she said, referring to the pool area, ballfield and bathrooms. "It's almost like a bait and switch."
Cannon said the only certain route the extension will take is between Lincoln Park and Erlanger's garage and child care center. But possible routes near Norfolk Southern railroad and the Riverwalk are still being discussed.
Rankin said some residents are also disappointed because they wanted to have a representative at the table with Erlanger about the park land. Instead a city official negotiated on their behalf and then residents learned the outcome, she said.
Conveying the land from the hospital to the city is a lengthy process, Cannon cautioned residents, but he said the transfer will happen, and improvements will be made. The Trust for Public Land will get ideas from the Lincoln Park community and citizens of Chattanooga on the park's development.
Cannon said he doesn't plan to go back to the Erlanger board to ask for more land.
"Mayor Berke invested a lot of time and even now some money to satisfy the park," he said. "We're looking at well over $1 million in improvements .... We don't want the park to be a mowed piece of grass like it is now. I want it to be 100 times better."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.