Stringer's Ridge preservation finalized

Stringer's Ridge preservation finalized

February 13th, 2012 by Pam Sohn in News

This view of downtown Chattanooga from Stringer's Ridge will be preserved with a land transfer from developer Jimmy Hudson to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Stringer's Ridge is formally set for preservation.

The Tennessee River Gorge Trust has accepted 55 acres of property - the side of the ridge facing downtown Chattanooga - from developer Jimmy Hudson. The transaction was announced Friday.

"I think there are times when the opportunities are not measured by dollars," said Hudson, whose prime land already had been zoned for development.

"We really saw the opportunity to donate it for what would be a better use for the entire community - a park and trails and green backdrop of downtown, a greenway."

The trust already held a conservation easement for that acreage, along with 37 acres on the other side of the ridge. Hudson had sold the 37 acres to the Trust for Public Land, which in turn had donated its $2.5 million purchase to the city. A proposal was unveiled in November to connect the ridge park to the proposed "gateway" to Moccasin Bend park.

"It is unusual to have a large piece of open space in such close proximity to downtown. These are the treasures that make Chattanooga the special place that it is," said Jim Brown, executive director of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust.

Rick Wood, Tennessee director of the Trust for Public Land, called the donation "a great next step" toward conserving an urban forest and natural park.

Hudson said he and his family first had planned to keep the 55 acres, but decided in December to donate it to the trust.

Hudson said he was surprised in 2008 by the community backlash when out-of-town developers proposed buying his land and building condos on the historic and scenic ridge. Eventually those developers scrapped the plan, and concerned groups in Chattanooga began working both to legislate against development on scenic vistas and to raise money to buy the ridge.

On Friday, Hudson acknowledged he hadn't then understood the public fervor.

"I didn't envision it going this way," he said. "But I think that process helped us realize what it really was worth."

"I guess you could say we all took it for granted," he said.