American Trails has been holding its biennial symposium in Chattanooga the last few days. Founded in 1988, American Trails bills itself as “the only national, nonprofit organization working on behalf of all trail interests, including hiking, bicycling, mountain biking, horseback riding, water trails, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, trail motorcycling, ATVs, snowmobiling and four-wheeling.”
The clever tag line for this year’s symposium summarizes an organizational belief that is hard to refute: “Trails: The Green Way for America.”
At the symposium, American Trails presented awards, and it should probably come as no surprise that two of them went to a project and a foundation within the event’s host city.
In the 1980s, Chattanooga—then a fading industrial center—very deliberately plotted a new future by enriching its quality of life, in part by creating trails and greenways. By the time TPL put together its first report on the economic benefits of parks and open space, in 1999, Chattanooga was a national poster child for a city that was attracting new businesses by creating a desirable place to live. By that time, as well, TPL had opened a local office in Chattanooga and was helping the community implement an ambitious greenway program, work that continues to this day.
So congratulations to Chattanooga for winning American Trails’ Planning/Design Award for its 13-mile-long Tennessee Riverpark. According to the American Trails website,
[The Riverparks’] development was a turning point for Chattanooga, revitalizing downtown and making trails more accessible to the local community. The most comprehensive and inclusive planning process ever undertaken in Chattanooga began in 1985 with an appointed task force. Their goal was to orchestrate a true, all-inclusive community planning process. After hundreds of public and private meetings involving thousands of citizens, the Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan was established. The vision operated under the premise that the Chattanooga riverfront was owned by everyone and should be developed “under a guiding idea which will bring its banks to life, make it a central point of pride for the City’s people, and move it to the forefront of national consciousness.” By reconnecting with the river, the city overhauled its image and fueled the engine of central economic development. Its impact has been so immense that the Riverfront Renaissance Story is being told internationally.
A second award, known as the Corporate Award, went to the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation for “tremendous support and exemplary service for trails planning and development in the east Tennessee and north Georgia region.”
The foundation focuses on the enhancement and enrichment of the natural, educational, cultural, and urban environment of Chattanooga and the surrounding region. The foundation’s service has benefited thousands of people in the region by creating various outdoor recreational opportunities for them to enjoy. Organizations they have partnered with for better trails include the Trust for Public Land’s Chattanooga Office, The Lulu Lake Land Trust, the Southeast Watershed Forum, and the Cumberland Trail Conference.
It’s great to see this well-deserved recognition for the foundation’s important contributions to Chattanooga’s quality of life.