City hopes brighter lighting will alleviate problems at Coolidge Park

City hopes brighter lighting will alleviate problems at Coolidge Park

August 18th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

People walk across the Walnut Street Bridge on Sunday. The brighter area behind the walkers is a test of new emergency lights for the downtown Chattanooga pedestrian bridge.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

An explosion of lights is brightening Coolidge Park and the Walnut Street Bridge.

Twenty lights have been installed under the bridge and 325 existing lights in Coolidge Park are being retrofitted with higher-wattage bulbs.

"You can increase the lighting to where it's almost daylight," said Larry Zehnder, the city's parks and recreation director.

The city began installing brighter lighting in early June to help alleviate problems at Coolidge Park. In April, a group of 300 teens and young people gathered at the park and shots were fired. A year earlier, almost 225 young people gathered and several people were injured from shots being fired.

The Chattanooga City Council passed an ordinance in March that barred anyone under age 18 in the park between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult over the age of 21.

The next step is the new lighting, which Zehnder said is about 80 percent complete and should be finished by the end of the month.

The bulbs are light-emitting diode, or LED, and could save the city money because they use less power. All the lights are wired into the city's network and radio-controlled and their brightness can be increased by 50 percent at any time, he said.

They should vastly improve security conditions in the area, he said.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said Coolidge Park area is a "high-traffic area" and needs the security.

Police presence has been upped since the last incident in the park, with almost 30 patrol areas in and around the area during the night. They will now be helped by the daylight lighting, he said.

"There already is a lot of security in that area, [the light] is just added security," Beeland said.

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