The city of Chattanooga and Trust for Public Land on Wednesday announced Chattanooga's participation in the trust's Park Equity Accelerator pilot program, a competitive grant program that seeks to address challenges cities face in improving park access.
"It's focused specifically on how the Trust for Public Land can be resourcing some of our closest city partners to be advancing techniques and tactics to increase park access for everyone," Noel Durant, Tennessee state director for the trust, said of the Park Equity Accelerator program during a phone interview.
He said the trust has worked closely with Chattanooga for more than 30 years.
"The city of Chattanooga has a track record of innovating, especially around how the public interacts with public spaces," Durant said, adding that the renaissance of the city's downtown area hinged upon public spaces. "This is sort of an opportunity to be looking at innovation and creative thinking around park access on a broader scale. We're grateful the city of Chattanooga is willing to work with us and utilize this support to drive more equitable access for everyone in the city of Chattanooga to the outdoors."
Chattanooga is among 300 cities across the country participating in the 10-Minute Walk Campaign, a partnership between the Trust for Public Land, National Recreation and Park Association and Urban Land Institute with a goal of ensuring everyone lives within a 10-minute walk of a quality park.
Six of those cities — Chattanooga; Lexington, Kentucky; Fort Worth, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Los Angeles — were selected to participate in the Park Equity Accelerator program.
"The goal is to help communities accelerate their ability to expand their park system to serve identified needs," Scott Martin, administrator of Chattanooga Parks and Outdoors, said in a phone interview about the program. "This will bring leading experts from around the nation into our community ... to meet with our citizens, elected officials and help come up with strategies, processes and a pathway forward to address some of the inequality and the systemic shortcomings of our park system."
Thirty-nine percent of Chattanooga residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park, which is less than the national median of 55%, Durant said.
"We have a great downtown park system, a world class one by any stretch, but there are many areas in our community where people do not live within walking distance of a neighborhood park," Martin said. "If you go outside of our city core in just about any direction, you'll find park deserts where you have to go a long, long ways away to find a public park."
Among the areas with limited access to parks is the Brainerd area, where the program was announced Wednesday at the future Provence Street Park.
Aside from distance, inequities in the park system also include deficiencies in maintenance and programming, Martin said, adding that the park equity program aligns well with Mayor Tim Kelly's One Chattanooga vision.
"Everyone deserves a great park they can walk to from their home," Martin said. "That's what living in a city in the state should mean."
Contact Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6508.