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Staff photo by Emily Crisman / A portion of the first phase of the White Oak Connector trail is shown facing north toward Red Bank in November 2021.

The long-awaited White Oak Connector trail linking Stringers Ridge Park in Chattanooga to Red Bank's White Oak Park is set to be completed this spring by the Trust for Public Land.

"This is a great opportunity for Red Bank to form another connection with our neighbors in North Chattanooga while adding to our trail network and recreational opportunities for our residents," Red Bank Mayor Hollie Berry said by phone.

The project has been in the works since 2016, when the Tennessee River Gorge Trust donated two 16-acre parcels on Stringers Ridge to the city of Red Bank. The municipality formed an agreement with the Trust for Public Land to complete the connector that year, but work was delayed as the Trust for Public Land worked to acquire property necessary to finish the trail from private owners.

In 2018 the Trust for Public Land purchased 5.29 acres from the owner of the Ridgemont Apartments and donated them to Red Bank, and also entered into conservation agreements with landowner William Ruffner and the developer of the North Point Ridge neighborhood.

A 2019 license agreement with TVA for use of its transmission line corridor was the final piece required for the connection, and the Trust for Public Land contracted with the Southeast Conservation Corps to construct a natural-surface trail, according to David Johnson of the Trust for Public Land.

Johnson spoke to the Red Bank City Council about the project on Dec 21.

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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / The Red Bank entrance to the White Oak Connector trail is seen on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022 in Red Bank, Tenn. The trail will connect White Oak Park in Red Bank to Stringers Ridge Park in Chattanooga.

The next and last phase of the project involves improvements to the existing gravel service road.

The road runs from East Midvale Avenue near the entrance to White Oak Park along the transmission line corridor to connect to Stringer's Ridge Park. Those improvements include grading, drainage work and laying down stone in the area of the trail that runs underneath the power lines that's constantly exposed to rain and runoff, said Noel Durant, Tennessee state director for the Trust for Public Land.

(READ MORE: Group aims to 'Save Red Bank Central Park,' but some residents hope for development)

"We want to be gifting the city of Red Bank a trail that's as low-maintenance as possible, and that corridor as it stands right now is not sustainable," he said by phone.

All funding for the project was raised by the Trust for Public Land, but Red Bank is responsible for maintaining the trail, Berry said.

The White Oak Connector trail is open to the public, including the service road in its unimproved state, and can be accessed from East Midvale Avenue near the southern entrance to White Oak Park, as well as from the Ridgemont Apartments trailhead and from the Double J trail in Stringers Ridge Park.

No start date has been set for the next phase of the project, which is expected to be complete in March. Once it's complete, the city plans to host a group walk from the pavilion at White Oak Park to the overlook in Stringer's Ridge Park, which is about 4 miles round-trip, Berry said.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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