Crews clear-cut in Renaissance Park to be ready for battle against invasive species

Crews clear-cut in Renaissance Park to be ready for battle against invasive species

June 13th, 2015 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Staff photo by Doug Strickland An area of the Renaissance Park wetlands where vegetation was cleared by the Chattanooga City Public Works Department is seen Friday, June 12, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Staff photo by Doug Strickland An area of the Renaissance Park wetlands where vegetation was cleared by the Chattanooga City Public Works Department is seen Friday, June 12, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Staff photo by Doug Strickland An area of the...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

POLL: Should the city restore the Renaissance Park wetlands?

Renaissance Park got a little less green this week after city employees clear-cut part of the lower park near the wetlands.

But officials say it will return to its natural state soon.

City spokeswoman Marissa Bell said Friday that volunteers will be out this weekend seeking to wipe out foreign plants that have invaded the park.

The clear-cutting may have been overzealous, but Bell said the nearby wetlands is in no danger.

"The wetlands are not imperiled. Crews will be seeding Renaissance Park soon with warm-season grasses and wildflowers. On Sunday, volunteers will be at Renaissance Park pulling up invasive plants such as kudzu," she said in an email.

Resident John Reis, whose home abuts the park, said the heavy-handed landscaping alarmed him at first, but he was pleased to hear the city was looking to help the wetlands.

The wetlands aren't just there for aesthetics; they serve a purpose.

Natural vegetation and soils filter stormwater as it travels down the watershed toward the Tennessee River.

"Everything that's growing there is soaking up the water and is a living part of the wetlands. It's a mini-ecosystem, but it's still an ecosystem," Reis said.

Turtles swim in the water and birds skim bugs from the surface of the slough or nest in the trees.

Reis walks the park at night, and he said some in the area complain that it looks overgrown or unkempt.

But that's the point, he said.

"To serve its purpose, it's supposed to look rough around the edges — what I would call natural," he said. "Renaissance Park isn't supposed to look like Coolidge Park, because it serves a different function. Coolidge is the city's playground."

After Reis voiced concern to the city, he said, officials acknowledged the clear-cutting was a mistake and pledged to manage the park like a wetlands or wildlife habitat.

Reis likened the Walnut Street Bridge, Coolidge Park, the 21st Century Waterfront and Renaissance Park to the city's "four aces."

"To me, Renaissance Park is the least appreciated, but it's the ace in the hole," Reis said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrg don@timesfreepress.com, @lbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.