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Teal Thibaud of the Glass House Collective, left, and Brenna Kelly from the Southeast Conservation cross North Crest Road near the Sherman Reservation on the north end of Missionary Ridge, part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Battlefield on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Glass House Collective helped obtain a grant to make a trail through the woods seen on the left on Trust for Public Land property connecting the Sherman Reservation with the Pennsylvania Reservation at the foot of Missionary Ridge, and will include a pedestrian crossing at this location.

When Carrington Montague went to Sherman's Reservation with a ranger from the National Park Service on the 125th anniversary of the battle of Missionary Ridge in 1988, he remembers the ranger strapping on a gun.

The ranger wasn't arming himself for a reenactment of the battle; he was being cautious at a site that — whether merited or not — had developed a reputation for attracting drugs and prostitution.

Now, years after that reputation led to installation of gates blocking vehicles from the crest of Sherman's Reservation, the historic parcel is set for a revitalization project. Local leaders hope the work will elevate the site's standing on the area's list of Civil War attractions and embed it within the identity of the neighborhood.

The Glass House Collective, a group founded to bring new life to Glass Street, recently secured two grants totaling $50,000 to build a trail connecting Glass Street to the base of Sherman's Reservation, which is the fourth-largest parcel in the National Park Service's local system.

"I think it's a great idea," Montague said. "The more you get people out, the more they'll learn, the healthier they'll be. It's just good public policy."

Montague, a history enthusiast, owned part of the land the trail will be built on. He sold it to the Trust for Public Land, which also bought land owned by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum for the trail.

The land will soon be transferred to the state, and a crew working through the Southeastern Conservation Corps will begin work on the trail this summer.

"The idea is connecting the community to the part of the park that is in their neighborhood," said Patrice Glass of the Friends of the Park, an organization that supports the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Sherman's Reservation is a part of the park's jurisdiction that also includes the Chickamauga Battlefield and Point Park — the two most prominent sites in an area network of reservations and monuments that highlight the Battle of Chickamauga and the Chattanooga Campaign.

Now, those who wish to see the views, monuments and cannons at the top of the reservation are relegated to a tight, haphazard parking area at the foot of an existing trail. The trailhead is in a heavily residential area, but walking to it from the neighborhood below is not a safe option because it would require traversing a hilly, curving stretch of Campbell Road that does not have sidewalks.

The new trail, which will run parallel to Campbell Street, will remedy that problem. It will start at the much-smaller Pennsylvania Reservation at the corner of Glass and Campbell streets, where on-street parking is plentiful. From there it would weave about a quarter of a mile to the foot of Sherman's Reservation.

Project leaders say the new trail's path will mirror the route that soldiers likely trudged to the top of the hill during the battle of Missionary Ridge.

The hill, named for Union General William T. Sherman, was, ironically, the site of the Confederates' best success during the Nov. 25, 1863, battle that Union forces ultimately won. Forces under the command of Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne held the hill through the day, enduring numerous assaults from Union soldiers under Sherman's command.

Decades after the war, soldiers from both sides returned to the site of the fighting in and around Chattanooga, establishing reservations with monuments that would preserve the history of the battles. There are seven National Park Service reservations just along Missionary Ridge. Sherman's Reservation is the largest and the only one that requires a hike to visit.

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The Pennsylvania Reservation on the north end of Missionary Ridge, part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Battlefield is photographed on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Glass House Collective helped obtain a grant to make a trail on Trust for Public Land property connecting the Sherman Reservation with the Pennsylvania Reservation at the foot of Missionary Ridge.

"This isn't just a municipal park for recreation; it's historic in significance," said Brad Bennett, superintendent of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. "That's why the soldiers that fought here preserved the land. Once we have a trail to invite people to explore this space, it will serve that double purpose."

Bennett said funding is pending for a new sign at the foot of the reservation to replace the current fading one.

Eventually, project leaders with an eye on the city's growing network of trails and greenways would like to see the reservation trail connected to the South Chickamauga Greenway a couple of miles to the east of Sherman's Reservation.

For now, Glass House Collective director Teal Thibaud hopes the project plays a role in the collective's mission to "bring life back to Glass Street and bring Glass Street back to life."

"We want to create a sense of place for the people that call this area home," Thibaud said. "That's really important to us."

She recalled speaking to a man in the neighborhood recently who didn't even know Sherman's Reservation was at the north end of Glass Street. To get the word out about the looming project, Glass House Collective will talk more about the trail project at its next monthly meeting, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at 2510 North Chamberlain Ave.

"We have this treasure, this parcel here on Glass Street that is overlooked, I think," Thibaud said, standing on Pennsylvania Reservation where the trail will start. "Most folks don't know it's here or its historical significance.

"But the most important thing, I think, that's overlooked is that there is a 50-acre national park on the north end of Glass Street."

Even though work on the trail has not started, the new emphasis on Sherman's Reservation is already meshing with the National Park Service's 100-year anniversary goal of engaging the next generation of parkgoers.

Nikki Lewis, a guide in Outdoor Chattanooga's new outdoor ambassador program and a volunteer with the Glass House Collective, is already planning to take a group of kids from the neighborhood on a hike through Sherman's Reservation this spring.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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