Elevating the role of public parks to build a better and healthier Chattanooga (Sponsored Content)

Photo contributed by Chattanooga Parks and Recreation

Great cities are defined by great parks. Chattanooga is home to world-class parks and a breathtaking natural environment. Its current public park system falls short of delivering "city-shaping" benefits that are possible as some neighborhoods are served better than others and more must be done to integrate nature into our neighborhoods and urban core, which will not only improve Chattanooga's livability today but make for a more resilient city for all tomorrow. Due to Chattanooga's setting, we have the chance here to build one of the nation's most extraordinary public park systems that elevate our city as the best place in America to call home.

For the last fourteen years, the city has lacked a strategic vision to guide park investments, the City of Chattanooga is working to rectify this by developing a Parks and Outdoors Plan (POP) that will offer a road map and pathway forward that reinvents Chattanooga as a city in a park - where a system of parks and protected open spaces connect people and where all neighborhoods have well-loved and well-used parks.

The POP has four driving principles that are informed by the success stories and local needs of the globe's best urban park systems:

> Equity - a commitment to the premise that everyone deserves access to a great public park. We follow this with a park and outdoors system that is tailored to meet the unique needs of Chattanooga's communities.

> Access - ensuring all Chattanoogans can easily reach the city's parks and outdoors, removing the barriers that keep residents from being able to enjoy our parks and that the parks are consistently safe, clean, fun, and welcoming to all.

> Quality - setting a standard for design, construction and maintenance that ensures these parks contribute to making the city more beautiful, high-functioning, ecologically healthy and a beautiful place to live (for people and wildlife alike).

> Place - recognizing the role of parks to authentically amplify the unique character and identity of its place and neighborhood. Parks are at the center of the great places communities value the most. Thus, it is with intentionality that Chattanooga will harness the power of parks to build on the unique characteristics that make our city so special.

The planning process is assessing the current state of our parks and outdoors and leading a public conversation about the features that Chattanoogans love, along with eliminating barriers that keep some people from using parks more often. The POP will be a community-driven document, with priorities and recommendations that reflect what is heard during a six-month public engagement process. Parks shape cities. This plan will elevate the role of these public parks in building a better and healthier Chattanooga.