A builder of lasting treasure

A builder of lasting treasure

January 22nd, 2013 in Opinion Times

Allen McCallie will be honored for his outstanding service and extraordinary commitment to conserving land for people across America.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga offers so many wonderful and well-used greenways and urban parks that it's easy to forget how they came about. The time warp is understandable. An outdoor culture was always ours, even if natural areas were not always readily available and nurtured in our core urban areas.

The reality, however, is that it has taken countless volunteers and millions of dollars in public and private gifts -- mostly private -- to conceptualize, create and build the greenspace environment in our urban center that so many people now cherish, and that make our city a destination for tourism, new companies and new jobs.

We can't begin to name all the volunteers who have quietly labored to give root to the Riverwalk and the immense network of connecting or adjacent greenways and parks that this work has inspired and spawned. But at least one star of the community's green team has been identified. Allen McCallie, an attorney who for 15 years has focused much of his volunteer and legal work on arranging the land acquisitions and conservation easements that have become integral parts of our newer outdoor public spaces, has been awarded the highest honor given by the national office of The Trust for Public Land, the nation's second largest land conservation organization.

McCallie will receive tonight the national TPL's Douglas P. Ferguson Award, which is given for outstanding service and extraordinary commitment to conserving land for people across America.

McCallie has well earned the honor. An attorney with Miller & Martin PLLC, McCallie has long focused his practice on real estate, nonprofit organizations, conservation law and public and private nonprofit development initiatives. His blending of professional legal work in these areas along with his advocacy for land stewardship, volunteerism and civic advancement has paid off in an array of civic ventures.

As a member of the Chattanooga Leadership Council of the Trust for Public Land, his service has been important to the Chattanooga TPL office's conservation work around this region. His dedication to TPL's work is seen in the Tennessee RiverWalk, which soon will stretch from Chickamauga Dam to the foot of Lookout Mountain, and the North and South Chickamauga Greenways, which are well along their vision of a bisecting trail on opposing sides of the Riverwalk that will reach from Signal Mountain to North Georgia. He helped create the Coolidge and Renaissance parks on the city's north shore, which are accessible from the Riverwalk along the pedestrian Walnut Street Bridge. He also has dedicated time to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, which protects the river canyon's vista; to the Lula Lake trail system, which soon will span 18 miles of trail from the east brow of Lookout Mountain to Cloudland Canyon on the west brow; and to the new Stringer's Ridge park on the north shore.

He has worked, as well, in behalf of public-private partnerships involving River City Co., the Tennessee Aquarium, the Tennessee Riverpark, CARTA's downtown shuttle system, the Majestic 12 Theater, and the RiverSet apartments. And he has served as board member of the Lyndhurst Foundation, which has been a key sponsor of so many land conservation and preservation efforts.

Walkers, hikers, bicyclists, horse riders, birders and other outdoor enthusiasts who use our new public parks and miles-long greenways can't be expected to know all the background work that goes into these public spaces. Suffice it to say that it involves seemingly endless efforts -- years-long efforts -- to acquire the conservation easements or purchase agreements that connect a chain of individual parcels of land to build miles of trails and greenways.

Some landowners immediately see the intrinsic value of allowing public access across their property as a way of building public support for land conservation, and accessible access to it. Others defer consideration of public access, and the tax credits that come from it, for years. Some occasionally reject it out-of-hand. Most, however, come to see the inherent and lasting benefit of sharing green-space, and the solace, enjoyment and health benefits that make public conservation and accessible urban greenspace a lasting treasure for the community.

McCallie and others engaged in this work, to be sure, also share both the vision and the commitment that make such efforts successful and durable. Their prize is our gain, and the foundation of our community's quality of civic life.