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A Tale of Two Parks

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A Tale of Two Parks

Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a public park?

One might think it should be easy: a town or city buys some land, puts a few benches and playgrounds out, and it’s done…right? Well, for better or for worse, creating a park requires a bit more work than many may be aware of.

The Land Trust for Tennessee is currently assisting two communities with the creation and permanent protection of public parkland, and both projects offer insight into how different each park can be.

Hamilton County (Southeast Tennessee)

The Land Trust is working with a team of nonprofits to assist with the creation and permanent protection of 200 acres of public parkland on the side of Signal Mountain. “I think what really makes this project unique is the collaboration – each group brings their own set of skills and expertise,” said Rachael Bergmann, Conservation Project Manager for The Land Trust.

In 2004, a local family donated 100 acres to the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy (NCCC) for the sole purpose of conservation. Early conversations between NCCC and The Land Trust eventually led to the idea of creating a park, which will now become a reality thanks to the local family agreeing to the proposed land use and donating an additional adjacent 100 acres toward the cause.

SORBA Chattanooga, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, Access Fund, and Hamilton County Parks and Recreation have since joined the effort to transform these 200 acres of natural, open space into a community park and outdoor recreation destination. Goals for the future park include providing trails for downhill mountain biking, access to bouldering, scenic trails for hiking, and other public amenities – all within a 15-minute drive of downtown Chattanooga.

The Land Trust’s Vice President of Conservation, Emily Parish, recognizes the hard work that has gone into this project thus far: “All partners are really committed to funding and building out the park before the land even transfers, which is really different from most parks. It truly is a citizen-led effort.”

The park is poised to be a shining example of community conservation, showcasing what is possible when many hands work together for a greater good. While an opening date is yet to be scheduled for the park, the Hamilton County Commission voted in late June to accept the land for the park. We look forward to sharing more exciting updates and ways for you to support this project along the way.

Williamson County (Middle Tennessee)

Meanwhile, in Southeast Williamson County, The Land Trust is also involved in a landowner-driven effort to create a much-needed public park for a growing community.

Peacock Hill’s 245 acres have been in the same family for almost 60 years. However, as can often happen for a number of reasons, the current owners are no longer able to manage the land. Every time the family would show their realtor around the property, they would marvel at how special the land was and that it would make a great park. Connecting the family’s vision for the land with The Land Trust’s ability to help make it a reality, the realtor introduced the two to one another.

The Land Trust soon became the intermediary between the landowners and Williamson County. While the county has a lot of ‘active’ parks – those with picnic areas, ball fields, and recreation centers – it does not have a lot of natural (or ‘passive’) parks, those with a focus on hiking trails and experiencing nature. After seeing the need for such space and being ultimately inspired by Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colo., the current owners decided to donate their family land to Williamson County to create a park.

“The county was immediately excited by the idea,” said Emily with a grin. “After they went out for their first visit to the property, they were hooked.”

The land is quite steep in some areas and has opportunities for hiking at all levels and may possibly offer fishing. The landowners and the county are aligned in their vision to see the property remain as natural as possible, similar to the Warner Parks or Radnor Lake in Nashville. The family had previously completed six miles of trails, which were for guests of the bed-and-breakfast when it was in operation.

Emily notes, “This park differs from the one in Hamilton County in that there are only three parties involved and that the entire process – from beginning conversations to the donation and protection of the land – may all take place in less than a year, which is very quick.”

In both instances, the land in Hamilton County and in Williamson County will be permanently protected with conservation easements held by The Land Trust.

“A lot of people may ask, ‘Why would a park need a conservation easement?’”, said Emily. “We help permanently protect parkland to ensure that future governments keep it as parkland.”

Hamilton County park:

“Hamilton County votes to accept future county park”, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Williamson County park:

“County budget committee approves $568.4 million budget, land donation for new park”, Williamson Herald

“3 key takeaways from the State of Williamson County speech”, The Tennessean