Partnership is at the heart of Chattanooga's next premier outdoor recreation destination. World-class mountain biking trails, two dozen new boulders and miles of scenic paths will soon be available at one destination just 10 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.
Sound too good to be true?
A group of conservation partners and community leaders are working around the clock to make this dream scenario a reality, and the forthcoming Walden's Ridge Park will set the stage.
A Coalition Vision
The Land Trust for Tennessee, North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, Southeastern Climbers Coalition and Hamilton Country Parks and Recreation have been devising a plan to create Walden's Ridge Park since 2016.
From the start, the group saw an opportunity to unite their individual areas of expertise to transform a 200-acre swath of forestland on the flank of Walden's Ridge into a community asset.
"Walden's Ridge Park is an inspiring testament to what is possible when passionate, skilled partners unite around a common goal," says Chad Wykle, Southeast director of The Land Trust for Tennessee. "We have climbing experts working with biking experts; land conservation specialists working with land management specialists; we have government partners, corporate sponsors and private foundations all coming to the table — everyone is working together to bring this park to life for the community."
A Three-in-One Park: Mountain Biking, Climbing and Hiking
Once complete, Walden's Ridge Park will provide a plethora of recreation opportunities, all within close range of the Signal Mountain, Red Bank and Greater Chattanooga communities.
Bikers will be able to enjoy the first purpose-built progressive downhill biking trails in the region. Climbers will have access to 24 boulders of varying technical difficulty. And hikers will have miles of new paths to explore with opportunities to take in scenic views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River Valley.
The park will eventually be owned and managed by Hamilton County Parks and Recreation, and The Land Trust for Tennessee will protect the park with a permanent conservation easement.
"It has been gratifying to witness the extraordinary level of collaboration that has emerged in the creation of this peerless public park," says Bruz Clark, president and treasurer of The Lyndhurst Foundation, a key funder of the project. "Chattanooga's reputation as a mecca for outdoor recreation will be greatly enhanced when the ribbon is cut at Walden's Ridge Park and people from all walks of life are able to experience the natural ecology and recreational opportunities that abound here."
Beyond its wealth of outdoor amenities, experts say the park will surely be a boon for the local economy, as well.
"Hamilton County residents spend more than $450 million a year on outdoor recreation in the county, and out-of-state visitors contribute $7.98 billion a year to the outdoor recreation sector statewide," says Dr. Drew Bailey, UC Foundation assistant professor of health and human performance at the University of Tennessee—Chattanooga. "Adding another outstanding area for recreation to this region will continue to drive visitation, increase revenue and reinforce Chattanooga's reputation as a leader in outdoor recreation."
Community Support Needed
The coalition plans to break ground on trail building for Walden's Ridge Park in November 2020 and will follow a trail design created by the International Mountain Biking Association. While no official opening date for the public has been determined, with community support, partners are eyeing a completion date of summer 2021.
"With everyone working together, Walden's Ridge Park is destined to be a crown jewel of Chattanooga's incredible outdoor community," says Taft Sibley, president of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy. "Now, we all just need to rally to cross the finish line."
The partners are seeking financial donations to underwrite the final park development costs, and asking community members to lend their voices to support the park. To get involved, visit waldensridgepark.com.