An acquisition by a local group of a 7.1-acre chunk of overgrown land on the trail to Lookout Mountain is one of the last big pieces of the Tennessee Riverwalk puzzle to fall into place, officials say.
The $200,000 purchase by the Lookout Mountain Conservancy brings the goal of a 22-mile trail through the Broad Street corridor as close as three years away, said Robyn Carlton, CEO of the conservancy.
"Our long-term goal is to release the property to the city," she said.
The Riverwalk currently stretches from the Chickamauga Dam past the Olgiati Bridge before petering out on the west side of downtown Chattanooga. Planners are working on additional pieces of the trail next to the Springhill Suites hotel development and along Alstom Power's property.
The 7.1-acre property, acquired from Margaret Williams Sexton, will serve as a link between existing or planned stretches of the Riverwalk and the public trail system on the slopes of Lookout Mountain, Carlton said.
Those trails go all the way to Alabama.
Other organizations, including the South Broad Redevelopment Group, also are working to acquire enough tracts of land to complete the entire trail, but the success of the process is dependent on willing sellers, Carlton said.
"Some homeowners are going to want to stay, and that's fine," she said. "Part of the fun of the Riverwalk is the different neighborhoods you go through along the way."
Mary Anne K. Williams, president of the conservancy, said that, though the property would remain privately owned while about $100,000 is spent to clean up the site, the group's intent is for the land to be available to the public as soon as possible.
"One thing we offer residents is, within 10 minutes, to be able to interact with the environment in an easy, low-cost way," Williams said.