TPL Will Preserve Stringer’s Ridge Property (TN)

CHATTANOOGA, TN, 11/18/2008: The preservation of Stringer’s Ridge moved another step closer today when the executive board of The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, voted to protect 92 acres on the Chattanooga ridgetop through a combination of acquisition and conservation easement.

“The undeveloped land along Stringer’s Ridge creates a green backdrop to all of Chattanooga’s most beloved public spaces,” said Will Rogers, president of TPL. “It is just this kind of landscape that helps define America’s cities. We are very excited to be a part of the preservation of this Chattanooga icon.”

The site consists of the four hilltops along Stringer’s Ridge, which rises above the Hill City neighborhood in North Chattanooga. The hills are clearly visible from downtown, the riverfront, North Market Street, and Cherokee Boulevard. The 92-acre property is forested and undeveloped.

More than just a natural treasure, the ridge also has historical significance. From its hills, Union troops bombarded Chattanooga in 1863, opening the Campaign for Chattanooga, which included the bloody Battle of Chickamauga. In addition, the fledgling U.S. Army Signal Corps established one of its first signal stations in the area as Union troops approached the “gateway to the Deep South.”

Builders have eyed the site for years. In 2007, a team of developers announced plans to build 500 units of high-density housing by slicing off the crest of the ridge and putting rows of six-story structures on top, similar to what was done on Cameron Hill. Concerned residents voiced strong opposition to changing the topography of the hilltop and to other important issues, such as water runoff and increased traffic. Because of community opposition, the construction plans were withdrawn.

“The threat of development fostered an important consensus: Chattanoogans want to protect as much of Stringer’s Ridge as possible for parks and green space,” said Rogers. “We are very pleased to be able to help in this effort.”

In partnership with the City of Chattanooga, the local TPL office launched a campaign to protect Stringer’s Ridge in September. Today’s vote by TPL’s national board gives approval for the organization to acquire 37 acres of the 92-acre undeveloped ridge property and secure a conservation easement, which will prevent future development, on the remaining 55 acres. As much of the site as possible will be conserved as a public park, although, if necessary, TPL will sell up to 10 acres of land next to the neighborhood for limited residential development in order to finance the protection of the rest of the property. A public planning process will assure the community will continue to have a strong voice in determining the future of this landmark property.

“But even with this good news today, the fight to save Stringer’s Ridge is not over,” said Rick Wood, director of TPL’s Chattanooga Office. “We must raise an additional $206,000 by December 12 to ensure its preservation.”

All together, the project will cost $2.5 million to protect the land and create a plan for its use. To date, two local foundations have pledged $900,000 to the acquisition. The City approved $150,000 in 2008 and intends to appropriate another $350,000 in 2009. The Trust for Public Land has raised $294,000 since September, but still needs to raise $806,000 ($206,000 by December 12) from individuals, corporations, and foundations. If the full amount is not raised, a 10-acre property may need to be sold to finance the project.

“Financial support from the general public will be key to protecting Stringer’s Ridge,” said Wood. Gifts can be sent to The Trust for Public Land, 202 Tremont Street, Chattanooga, TN 37405. For more information about how to support TPL’s work on Stringer’s Ridge, contact Carla Askonas at 265-5229, ext. 4.