Trust seeks land for public to enjoy

Trust seeks land for public to enjoy

November 29th, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in News

Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Rick Wood, director of the Chattanooga office of the Trust for Public Land, hopes his organization can help facilitate using former rail lines along Anderson Avenue in Highland Park as a combination walkway and linear park. The little-travelled road that runs from Holtzclaw Avenue to Ridgeside is wider than normal because of a long-closed rail line.

Anderson Avenue in Highland Park is a chance for Chattanooga to save a green corridor in the midst of the city, a local preservationist says.

Before Anderson was a city street, a railroad ran along it. It's wider than most roads, almost 80 feet across.

Rick Wood, executive director of the Trust for Public Land, says the extra width is just right for a walking and biking trail alongside the street.

"There are opportunities in urban areas to look at rail corridors," he said. "We believe the city has some opportunity."

As Chattanooga becomes more urban, available land for public use becomes more scarce, Wood said. But there still is land out there that can be turned into public usage -- walking trails, parks and natural areas, officials said.

It is just a matter of finding it, said Larry Zehnder, the city's director of Parks and Recreation.

"Every bit of undeveloped land can be turned into a public use," Zehnder said. "There are properties that have yet to be developed."

The Trust for Public Land has helped acquire property atop Stringer's Ridge and gotten conservation easements for the Riverwalk, North Chickamauga Creek Greenway and the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway.

Trust officials now are drawing up plans on how to acquire more land atop Missionary Ridge for the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.

Zehnder said neither the city nor the Trust knows how much land could still be available because no studies have been conducted.

Wood said the Trust's first goal is to acquire land, especially along North and South Chickamauga creeks, for walking trails.

LAND PRESERVED

The Trust for Public Land has helped preserve many undeveloped parcels around Chattanooga in recent years, including:

* Saving Stringer's Ridge from development near downtown Chattanooga

* Helping to draft a working proposal on saving viewsheds around Missionary Ridge

* Acquiring land for North Chickamauga Greenway, South Chickamauga Greenway and the Riverwalk

Source: Newspaper archives

Old railbeds could be made into walking paths, and old industrial sites can be converted into parks like Renaissance Park, he said.

Some money from the water quality program could be used to buy land along creeks that is not suitable for development and turn it over for public use, he said.

Councilman Russell Gilbert, chairman of the City Council's Parks and Recreation Committee, said he favors making better use of existing public structures.

He said it has been a personal goal for years to connect the new Enterprise South Nature Park with South Chickamauga Creek Greenway. He says one way of doing it is to build bicycle and walking trails along city roads and sidewalks to connect the two.

"It's the most economical way," he said.

Zehnder said there are several ways to acquire land for public use. This year, his department acquired the old Hixson Middle School and is thinking of turning at least part of it into a public park.

The city's water quality program also is paying a dividend already by making some land available to the public, he said.

For instance, the city bought some often-flooded property along Hickory Valley Road a few years ago. Now the land is a practice facility for First Tee and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf program, he said.