Chattanooga's biodiversity crux

Tish Gailmard, Director of Wildlife at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, holds a barn owl who came to Reflection after being hit by a car.

Growing up, my family didn't go for beach vacations.

We camped.

For one glorious week during the summer I became my cousin's shadow as we caught frogs, chased violet butterflies and dodged poison ivy.

We hiked every day and I absorbed my dad's love for Tennessee forests and creatures. His endless knowledge of native trees and flora made every hike magical. He quizzed me on each species of tree, explained blights and beetles that threaten them. Every camping trip meant new discoveries.

I still love the sensations of being outdoors. And living in Chattanooga makes mountain access easy – downtown's hardly more than 15 minutes from trails and boulders.

"Outdoor beauty and unrivaled biodiversity are some of the key factors recruiting people to move to Chattanooga," says Bridgett Massengill, Thrive Regional Partnership President and CEO.