We want to be here. We could live anywhere.
Earl Wilson, 66, grew up just across the Tennessee-Georgia state line in Fort Oglethorpe, but when it came time to go to college, he moved in with his brother on South Seminole Drive in East Ridge to get in-state tuition at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. That was in 1971.
Wilson transferred to Carson-Newman University up in Johnson City, Tennessee, but graduated from UTC in 1976 and bought a house in Fort Oglethorpe. Then he returned to East Ridge; though he later moved to Ringgold, Georgia, to take advantage of the Georgia Hope scholarship for his daughter, Emily, when it came time for her to go to high school.
When Wilson retired from the pharmaceutical industry six years ago, and with Emily and son Seth grown and moved away, he and his wife, Carol, could have chosen anywhere in the country to live.
"We picked East Ridge," he says. "It's a great place to live. We want to be here. We could live anywhere."
He says he kept coming back "because it is the most convenient place you can live."
Like any place, it has its challenges and opportunities, says Wilson. When he started vocalizing some of those concerns, his former Carson-Newman classmate and then-Director of Parks and Recreation Stump Martin challenged him to put up or shut up. So he did. Sort of.
"Stump volunteered me for a couple of boards," Wilson says. "I was on the Beer Board and the Camp Jordan committee, and the Housing Authority that got dissolved and became the Housing Commission, and I'm still on that and the Beer Board.
"It's a great community, but it somehow got away from us and we need to get it back."
East Ridge is an oblong city that stretches for 4.5 miles from Missionary Ridge to Interstate 75. It is 2.5 miles wide from I-24 to the Georgia state line. Some areas have remained fairly stable or even stagnant in recent years, while others, such as the business district in the middle, have struggled economically.
"My goal is to get things started from the west end and the east end and meet in the middle," says Wilson.
As examples of the city working to make East Ridge a great place to live, he cites the work being done at and around Camp Jordan to the east, the sidewalks that are scheduled to be constructed in the middle of the city, and the fact that the community and East Ridge High School boosters asked to take over care of the athletic facilities at the school.
"I've never heard of that happening anywhere else in the county. It's shows how important that is to this community," he says.
Wilson is optimistic about the future.
"We're making progress and we are going to get there."
BY THE NUMBERS
WHO WE ARE
Median household income: $41,648
Median age: 39.3
Two or more races: 2.2%
Source: 2017 American Community Survey
WHERE WE LIVE
Median sales price: $134,900 in 2018; $126,500 in 2017
New listings: 26 in 2018; 21 in 2017
Sales closed: 19 in 2018; 23 in 2017
Source: Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors annual report
East Ridge Elementary (preK-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 4/5 in language arts, 5/5 in math, 2/5 in science
» Opened in August 2010 to replace the old East Ridge Elementary and McBrien Elementary, which closed in June 2010, the new elementary school has one of the largest — and most diverse — school populations in Hamilton County, according to its website. Over 25 languages are spoken at the school.
Spring Creek Elementary (preK-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 1/5 in language arts, 3/5 in math, 3/5 in science
» Spring Creek Elementary offers an extra hour of instruction to students both before and after school on everything from math to karate via the Eagle Academy, and classes are available for parents as well. For example, parents can sign up to learn how to teach math to their kids, how to do their taxes or participate in a cooking course.
East Ridge Middle
Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 5/5 in language arts, 5/5 in math, 5/5 in science
» For its high TVAAS scores, in 2018 East Ridge Middle was named a Level 5 school, placing it in the top 5% statewide for student academic achievement.
East Ridge High
Proficiency (TVAAS): 3/5 overall, 5/5 in language arts, 2/5 in math, 1/5 in science
Average ACT score: 17.2 composite
» East Ridge High is the site of several small, targeted learning communities, called Future Ready Institutes. Launched by the district in 2018, the Institutes partner with the local business community to offer career-themed education within each high school. ERHS is home to the Institute of Engineering and Design, the Institute of Building Construction and the Institute of Leadership.
Source: 2018 State Report Card, HCDE
*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.
WHAT WE DO FOR FUN
Camp Jordan Park & Arena
Camp Jordan Park consists of more than 257 acres with a large picnic pavilion, playgrounds, 13 baseball and nine soccer fields, a 19-hole disc golf course, fishing pond, an amphitheater and access to points and canoe/kayak launches along West and South Chickamauga creeks. The Adventure Center, a zipline and obstacle course, opened at the park in fall 2018.
In early 2019, the complex underwent a $2.3 million face lift for the more than 100,000 visitors who take advantage of its recreational offerings each year, including upgraded concession and restroom facilities, ballfields, and new restroom and concession facilities near the fields.
The 34,000-square-foot arena is home to annual, seasonal and sporting events and can seat up to 5,000 people with parking for more than 1,000 vehicles.
Camp Jordan's walking track and nature trail traces the perimeter of the property and creates a shorter loop within the property. It consists of a wide, pet-friendly, lighted asphalt pathway that weaves in and out of wooded areas, an old farm and along the creeks. The trail also crosses a walking/biking bridge to the west side of the creek, where it continues north to link with Chattanooga's South Chickamauga Creek Greenway. The master plan calls for that greenway to run all the way to the Tennessee Riverwalk 12 miles away — which is expected to be reality by the end of 2019. 323 Camp Jordan Pkwy. Call 423-805-3111.
» It isn't just the park itself that is seeing upgrades. At the entrance to Camp Jordan, a new development, Jordan Crossing, will see up to $5 million in new projects. Already the site of a new Hampton Inn, Buddy's Bar-B-Q and Starbucks are planned for 2019, and another developer has plans for a proposed indoor water park and hotel nearby.
East Ridge Community/Senior Center
A paved walking track circles the Pioneer Frontier Playground, and the center contains a gymnasium, fellowship areas and other activities. Annual membership fees are $20 for residents and $30 for non-residents. The city also offers a family membership for $40 per year. Additional fees apply to some classes and activities, and the facilities can be rented out. 1517 Tombras Ave. Call 423-867-6406 for the community center and 423-867-5874 for the senior center.
Not far away, the Antique District in East Ridge is located behind Cracker Barrel on Ringgold Road, just off I-75. Visitors can take home a piece of the past after shopping at the half dozen or so stores there. If "pickin" is your pastime, be sure to also stop by Chattanooga Mercantile, located just down the road. Opened in summer 2018, it houses over 300 vendors offering everything from antiques to boutique clothing to fresh flowers. There's even a bakery, coffee shop and full-service tea room.
A new addition to the small city's saturated restaurant scene, Local Coffee of East Ridge is a great place to mingle. 5330 Ringgold Road. Call 423-498-6060.
For an all-around family meal, stop by Epicurean Restaurant, which serves Southern fare with a Greek twist. 4301 Ringgold Road. Call 423-622-4139.
For authentic Greek food, head to Olive Branch. In addition to rotating daily lunch specials, the eatery features an on-site market. 3992 Ringgold Road. Call 423-805-5295.
» The city has plans for several off-leash dog parks. Officials are eyeing 3.29 acres on the corner of East End and Oakdale avenues for construction of a dog park and animal control facility, but the goal is to have one or two permanent dog parks established within the city by the time the animal shelter's construction begins. Camp Jordan and property on Springvale Road have been named as two of the areas under consideration.
East Ridge Library
1517 Tombras Ave; 423-867-7323
Monday, Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
East Ridge is governed by a city council made up of a mayor, vice mayor and three council members. Regular meetings are held the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, starting at 6 p.m. for an agenda setting meeting and 6:30 p.m. for the regular council session.
Recycling: The city offers free curbside recycling service upon filling out the required request form, and provides a free recycling container to put them in. All typical recyclables included except for plastic bags.
Good to know: Dumpster rentals for house and commercial short-term use are available. Call 423-892-8666 for pricing and scheduling.
The East Ridge Kiwanis Club meets every Thursday at noon at Wally's on Ringgold Road. The international service organization is dedicated to "improving the world, one child and one community at a time."
The East Ridge Optimist Club meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the East Ridge Community Center, on the Senior Center side. The club's motto is "Bringing Out The Best in Kids."