Changes pondered for Ross's Landing in downtown Chattanooga

photo Ross's landing and the Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga

ROSS'S LANDING PROPOSALS• Riverfront Parkway "crossing tables"• Waterfront activities center• Land bridge• Park paths, shade trees• Stepped edge to access river• Floating dock for small boatsSource: Jones and Jones

Ross's Landing Park could gain its biggest upgrade since the 21st Century Waterfront Project was built in downtown Chattanooga seven years ago.

The possible changes, slated to be finalized later this year, could be part of the multimillion-dollar effort to fix cracking on the concrete edge of the park along the Tennessee River.

Among park changes offered in a study are a pedestrian land bridge over Riverfront Parkway, a waterfront activities center with restrooms, park paths and a floating dock for smaller craft.

"Some of these are out-of-the-box thinking," said Larry Zehnder, the city's parks and recreation administrator.

He said the proposed $1.5 million land bridge going from the Tennessee Aquarium plaza over Riverfront Parkway to the park along the river is unlikely to happen.

"That, in my estimation, is not going to happen unless the Aquarium takes that one on," Zehnder said.

Charlie Arant, the Aquarium's chief, said he's not sure a land bridge is the wisest use of money. While such bridges are on the Aquarium plaza and fairly well used, he said building one over the parkway seems like an expensive proposition.

Still, Arant said, he favors making the park more user-friendly.

Another recommendation by the study consultants, Jones and Jones, is to look at converting existing crosswalks on the parkway to slightly raised "crossing tables" to reduce vehicle speeds and calm traffic. The study said those could improve pedestrian safety.

"That has to be studied by the traffic engineering people," Arant said.

Also raised by the study is building a waterfront activities center with restrooms, ticket sales, equipment rental and recreational boating support facilities.

Zehnder said he's supportive of that project, which could go on the north side of Riverfront Parkway near its intersection with Power Alley.

"I think that absolutely has to happen," he said of the center.

Arant, too, said the center is needed and could turn into a focus for the park.

"It could rent some type of sports equipment," he said, which could enable people to play volleyball or throw horseshoes. "It would make [the park] a lot more user-friendly."

Another idea was lowering a portion of the hard edge to permit people to directly access the river. The study mentioned constructing steps to the water.

The city plans to spend $8 million in funds, most of which is to fix the major cracking and other problems along the hard edge.

Zehnder said if there's money available from that pool of funds, other park improvements could be made.

He said plans are to gather stakeholders to discuss potential park changes, the hard-edge project and a work schedule for next year.

Zehnder said plans are to work around the Head of the Hooch regatta in November and the Riverbend Festival in midsummer.

Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator, said rehabbing the hard edge could affect a lot of events at the park.

But, he added, the park has matured and efforts are welcome to make it more pedestrian friendly.