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City Commissioner Ethan White poses in front of the Imagination Station playground on Friday, March 30, 2018, in Collegedale, Tenn.

Collegedale was recently ranked the third-safest city in Tennessee by the National Council for Home Safety and Security. The ranking was based on FBI Uniform Crime Report data and the council's own research.

It's a mid-sized city with a small-town feel, says Ethan White, lifelong Collegedale resident and current city commissioner.

"We are aggressively being progressive," he says, listing several new restaurants and businesses planning to open soon, such as Chick-fil-A and Dos Bros Mexican Grill. "We're in that growing pains phase of being a big town to being a small- to mid-sized city."

Among Tennessee's 100 largest cities, Collegedale is second only to the Nashville suburb of Mount Juliet in its growth rate from 2010 to 2016.

As the city grows, officials are also ensuring it can handle the growth. Apison Pike, the major artery that runs through the city, has undergone a face lift in the last two years — going from just two lanes to four — and will continue to expand in upcoming years. The thoroughfare connects Interstate 75 to Southern Adventist University and beyond that to Collegedale Municipal Airport, which welcomes private planes.

"We know growth is going to happen, so we're trying to implement programs and plans so that growth happens controlled and in a positive way," White says.

White is a third-generation Collegedale resident, born and raised. He attended grade school and college there, but he's also traveled the world and visited several states. He always comes back home to Collegedale.

"It's very rural but it's very urban at the same time," says White. "You can be in Nashville in two hours, Knoxville in an hour and a half; Atlanta, an hour and forty-five minutes. Within eight hours you can be in D.C., the beach, anywhere you want."

The city is also central to outdoor living hotspots, including the Ocoee River, famed for its whitewater, and major hiking and biking trails close by at Enterprise South. But Collegedale also has its own trails — the local university's biology trails. People travel from as far as Atlanta to hike the natural trails, White says.

Falling in line with its progressive attitude, the city is recognized by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's Healthier Tennessee initiative. The initiative strives to increase the number of Tennesseans who are physically active for at least 30 minutes five times a week, promote a healthy diet, and reduce the number of people who use tobacco.

While Collegedale has seen exponential growth and development in recent years, it's still a perfect fit for people in all stages of life, says White.

"It's a very eclectic community, and I think that's what makes us very unique," he says. "We strive for that diverse but unified feel."

BY THE NUMBERS

WHO WE ARE

Median household income: $52,165 (2016 estimate)

Population: Currently 13,000. The population grew 27% between 2000 and 2010.

White: 74%

Black/African-American: 10%

Asian: 5%

Hispanic or Latino: 10%

Other: 2%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

WHERE WE LIVE

Median home price: $226,600

Property values: Up 7.2% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.8% within the next year.

Source: Zillow

some text Charity Langley extends a helping hand to her 4-year-old son Jeremiah as he and his 6-year-old brother Isaiah play at the Imagination Station playground.

OUR SCHOOLS

With the town springing up around Southern Adventist University, it's no surprise education is a central focus. In addition to the numerous public schools below, Collegedale has its own Adventist school system.

Apison Elementary (preK-5)

Population: 559

Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 5/5 in literacy, 5/5 in numeracy

Wolftever Creek Elementary (preK-5)

Population: 578

Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 5/5 in literacy, 3/5 in numeracy

Ooltewah Elementary (preK-5)

Population: 986

Proficiency (TVAAS): 3/5 overall, 5/5 in literacy, 2/5 in numeracy

Hunter Middle

Population: 818

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 1/5 in literacy, 5/5 in numeracy

Ooltewah Middle

Population: 727

Proficiency (TVAAS): 3/5 overall, 4/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

Ooltewah High

Population: 1,561

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 1/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

ACT scores: 20 composite, 19.4 in English, 19.1 in math, 20.5 in reading, 20.2 in science

*The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scale runs from 1-5, with 1 denoting the least effective schools/districts and least amount of progress toward the Standard for Academic Growth.

some text Big event: Veterans Memorial Park makes a fitting location for Collegedale’s annual Independence Day Celebration, which features a performance by the East Tennessee Symphony Orchestra, along with fireworks, food trucks and more family fun.

WHAT WE DO FOR FUN

Imagination Station: Large community playground with a variety of swings, seesaws, slides, old train cars and wooden forts. 4910 Swinyar Drive.

Veterans Memorial Park: Wide, open space featuring monuments, sculptures and military installations commemorating military veterans. 9300 Apison Pike.

Wolftever Creek Greenway:

Paved pedestrian trail that begins at Imagination Station playground behind city hall and stretches to the Nature Nook.

Nature Nook: An amphitheater situated in an urban forest setting. Available for residents at no charge and is a great gathering place to experience some of the community's cultural opportunities. Located at the intersection of Tallant Road and Apison Pike.

Collegedale Dog Park: Fenced-in, off-leash open area with agility equipment and benches; free to use. 5225 Tallant Road.

some text Kristina Mason holds her daughter Sasha, 13 mos., as she purchases an Empanada from Keila Lazeano, second from left, and Sakei Riggs of vendor Aji Peruvian Restaurant.

DON'T MISS

Aji Peruvian Restaurant

5035 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road

If you're in the mood for fresh, authentic ingredients to bring you the flavors of Peru, Aji is the place for you. Ají (ah-Hee) means "pepper" in Spanish. The restaurant imports many of its ingredients to give its dishes and sauces true, exotic flavors that people have come to love. It also offers a vegetarian menu.

Biology Trails

4707 Morningside Drive

Southern Adventist University's Bauxite Ridge and White Oak Mountain trails span more than 30 miles, stretching from the lowest point of the valley to the ridge top overlooking the university.

Wired Coffee Bar

5707 Main St., Ooltewah

Enjoy coffee drinks — hot, iced or frozen — along with specialty teas, fruit juices and smoothies. The coffee shop also offers a wide variety of savory pastries, and is a popular study spot for the city's many students.

some text A statue of Desmond Doss is seen in the Veterans Memorial Park on Friday, March 30, 2018 in Collegedale, Tenn.
GET INVOLVED

American Legion: Focused on service to veterans, service members and communities. Meets the fourth Thursday of each month from 6-9 p.m. at Greenbriar Cove Community Center, 4607 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road.

Ooltewah-Collegedale Chamber of Commerce: This chapter of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce meets the third Wednesday of each month from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Collegedale City Hall, 4910 Swinyar Drive.

Garden Club of Ooltewah Collegedale: Meets the fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the East Room at Collegedale City Hall, 4910 Swinyar Drive.

Kiwanis Club: Part of a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time. The Collegedale club meets every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at Collegedale City Hall, 4910 Swinyar Drive.

Lions Club: Another international organization that strives to meet the needs of local communities and the world. The Ooltewah/Collegedale Lions Club meets the first and third Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at Garden Plaza of Greenbriar Cove, 4586 Forsythia Way.

DETAILS

LOCAL LIBRARY:
Collegedale Public Library
9318 Apison Pike; 423-396-9300
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday: 1-6 p.m.

CITY SERVICES: The Collegedale City Commission meets every other Monday at 6 p.m. A full schedule and agenda of past and upcoming meetings can be found at Collegedaletn.gov.

Recycling: Curbside pickup is offered through an independent provider for a monthly fee. The city also offers a drop-off center at 769 Sanborn Drive that accepts regular recyclables save for glass and electronics.

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