The Friends of Mountain Creek (FOMC) is a grassroots movement of more than 2,000 area citizens who support a better use of the property at 1001 Reads Lake Road than has been proposed by a developer. This is the site of the former Quarry Golf Course and is home to much natural beauty, including a magnificent Post Oak tree located behind the former clubhouse that many people, now including our governor, believe should be protected.
Earlier this year, Chattanooga's state Sens. Bo Watson and Todd Gardenhire proposed Senate Joint Resolution 546 which was unanimously approved and signed by Senate Speaker Randy McNally. It was then forwarded to our state Rep. Patsy Hazlewood who presented it in the House, where it was unanimously approved. Senate Joint Resolution 546 was signed by Gov. Bill Lee on April 30.
This magnificent tree, now known as Chattanooga's Post Oak, was nominated for recognition as a "Champion Tree" early in 2018. After verifying dimensions and an assessment of its health, arborists from the Tennessee Forestry Department in Nashville officially recognized it as a healthy, robust tree and worthy of being Tennessee's "Runner-Up Champion" Post Oak. The current Champion Post Oak tree, in Madison County, Tennessee, is larger in circumference and spread, but at 78 feet tall, it is dwarfed by the Chattanooga Post Oak which is a full 43% taller at 112 feet.
Chattanooga's Post Oak is not just a "runner-up." Comparing Chattanooga's Post Oak to all listed champion trees, it is the tallest on record in the United States. Since it is found primarily here in the USA, it is also therefore the tallest of its kind in the world.
Why is this important? This land has been a recreation space for generations. It is used by kids and families for fishing, hiking and dog walking. Wildlife of all kinds reside here including turtles, otters, deer and water fowl.
Now, a developer intends to change this. He applied for a planned unit development (PUD) to densely pack 200 rental units and attached-single family structures resembling duplexes and triplexes on the 50-acre site. These plans were, however, withdrawn when widespread opposition arose and the developer realized that a PUD would not be supported.
The preferred alternative supported by petition signers is to preserve the property as open space for everyone's use, thus supporting Mayor Andy Berke's green-space initiative, and adding incredible value to the world-class mountain biking and bouldering park planned on adjacent property.
A second alternative (albeit reluctantly supported by FOMC's petition) is to support development consistent with the rural character of the surrounding area maintaining greenspace and protecting natural features including the clear steams, spring fed ponds, forest and Chattanooga's Post Oak.
The developer's current plans do none of this. Instead, in this section of the Quarry, the tree will be removed so that he can (in his words) "cram in as many doors as possible." To achieve this, his plans also appear to marginalize rules for buffers designed to protect the adjacent stream.
We encourage the city leadership to preserve this tree and this property. If the property is to be developed, we encourage TDEC and the city inspectors to enforce stream buffer standards.
If Chattanooga's Post Oak and surrounding space is preserved, it could provide value and a source of pride to many for generations.
Bob Geier, a retired mechanical engineer, is the communicator for the Friends of Mountain Creek.