Park with a view: Stringer's Ridge shows off downtown Chattanooga

Park with a view: Stringer's Ridge shows off downtown Chattanooga

September 4th, 2013 by Alex Green in Local Regional News

Rick Wood stands on a newly constructed overlook while giving a tour of the new Stringer's Ridge Park on Tuesday. The urban nature park, which features foot and biking trails across 103 acres, will hold its grand opening on Saturday.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Site of Stringer's Ridge Park

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

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ABOUT THE PARK

• Total cost: $2.6 million

• Total acreage of park: 103 acres

• Total miles of trail: 8

IF YOU GO

• What: Stringer's Park opening ceremony

• When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday

• Where: Spears Road trailhead (just past Matlock Street intersection)

• Admission: Free

• For more info: Visit www.outdoorchattanooga.com

Imagine the best view of downtown Chattanooga. Now go there.

It lies within three miles of where 28,000 Chattanoogans live and where 47,000 employees work every day, according to Rick Wood, executive director of Chattanooga's Trust for Public Land.

That view is from an observation deck along the Cherokee Trail at Stringer's Ridge Park, Chattanooga's latest park installation, positioned on the ridge between Red Bank and Hill City. The view looks almost directly down Market Street, through the heart of downtown.

The view is beautiful, even with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees with 50 percent humidity. Imagine what it will be like next month when the heat dissipates and the trees begin to change, said Rick Wood, executive director of Chattanooga's Trust for Public Land, on Tuesday afternoon.

Stringer's Ridge is not so much a park as it is a forest, an "urban forest," Wood said. It isn't "manicured." There are no green lighting structures.

There are no sidewalks, either. There's just forest, some nature trails and a decades-old asphalt driveway.

The park's untouched nature is a benefit, said Gene Hyde, city forester for Chattanooga.

"A nice green area like that is an urban oasis that will serve a lot of people very well for many, many years," he said.

The trees at Stringer's Ridge will provide "quite significant" perks to the ecosystem. It's a good step toward maintaining the city's 51.4 percent tree-top canopy, Hyde added.

For residents around Stringer's Ridge, the forest's preservation is also a win.

Jason Havron is co-president of the Hill City neighborhood association. A few years ago, he and others picked up 500 old tires from the ridge's base.

He is happy that next door to his Highridge Road home he'll continue to see trees, not condos and trash.

"There's no place like this in the city," he said.

Havron said the park "was never really secret, secret." In fact, Stringer's Ridge has been a haunt of Chattanoogans for some time, even though it's been off-limits while work on the park was under way.

As long as folks pick up their trash, he said, he's excited about the park opening to visitors.

In decades to come, he said, Chattanooga residents will look back on the park's purchase and think, "I'm so glad that somebody was thinking about this 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago."

The park officially opens Saturday with a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at the Spears Road entrance.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at 423-757-6731 or agreen@timesfreepress.com.