Chattanooga's park planning efforts will get a $40,000 boost thanks to a grant from several private organizations.
The city was one of 12 selected to receive the funding as part of the 10-Minute Walk Campaign. The campaign consists of nearly 200 mayors pledged to improve city parks and park access.
"Parks play a critical role in the health and well-being of our communities," Mayor Andy Berke said in a news release. "Chattanooga is proud to be connecting all of our residents to local parks. From greenways and playgrounds to hiking and biking trails, Chattanoogans should possess options for activities and community gatherings."
Berke was one of the first mayors to join the campaign when it launched last year. Its goal is for everyone in the U.S. to live within a 10-minute walk of a high-quality park or green space. Now about 36 percent of Chattanooga residents fall in that category. However, the city's current focus is improving access to existing parks, although adding parks and green spaces will remain a priority, said city parks planner Akosua Cook.
Cook and other city leaders are beginning to work on updating the city's park master plan. The master plan is crucial to planning at a systemwide level but hasn't been updated since the 1990s. The city is considering paying a consultant to help with the effort, which could take nearly two years. The master plan will help leaders decide what and where improvements are needed.
"The reason this grant opportunity came at the perfect time for us is it's laying a great foundation and framework for what will go into our new parks master plan," Cook said.
Most of the needed improvements, they feel, involve connectivity. Chattanooga has green spaces but lacks widely available accessibility. The goal is to get people outside while limiting the number of vehicles on roadways. Improvements could include multiuse trail expansion and additional sidewalks, especially in the city's Southside.
More than 200 cities applied for the grant, which was funded by the National Recreation and Park Association, the Trust for Public Land and the Urban Land Institute.
"Parks are where we connect with nature and each other, and everyone deserves a quality park within a 10-minute walk from home," said Diane Regas, president and CEO of the Trust for Public Land. "I'm proud to partner with the National Recreation and Park Association and the Urban Land Institute to help cities achieve the 10-Minute Walk vision."