Will Rogers, president and CEO of the Trust for Public Land, praised Chattanooga's urban park leadership Thursday and told local Rotarians that Stringer's Ridge has potential to be the city's "gem park."
"Chattanooga has led the way," he said of many cities' revisioning their riverfronts and turning parking lots into parks. "Now there is an enormous opportunity to protect a very important backdrop and iconic landscape in a city that has done so much already to protect its most important places."
The 90-acre face of Stringer's Ridge serves as Chattanooga's northern background. Its preservation was announced in January by the Chattanooga office of the Trust for Public Land, but money must raised to secure the $2.5 million purchase and easement plan.
Potential condominium development on the ridge concerned historical preservationists because Civil War history and cannon emplacements could be lost.
Scenery-conscious groups, too, were worried that the city's vistal would be harmed by development.
Rick Wood, director of the Chattanooga office of the Trust for Public Land, took Mr. Rogers on a tour of Stringers Ridge on Thursday morning, and after the Rotary Club speech the two planned a meeting with Mayor Ron Littlefield.
Mr. Wood said the city had committed $500,000 toward the Trust's Stringers Ridge Fund campaign. The city has paid $150,000 of that commitment, and Mr. Wood said he hoped to secure the rest.
But 80 percent of the preservation money is coming from private donors, Mr. Rogers said.
"It's an interesting time right now, given this economy, for conservation," he said. "We're seeing some of the best land values and best conservation deals we have ever seen. ... With the falloff of the real estate market, we're getting a second bite at the apple."