The Tennessee River Gorge Trust protects over 17,000 acres around the Tennessee River Gorge. They manage the stewardship of this land through a combination of fee simple ownership (about 6,500 acres they own the deeds and titles to), memorandums of understanding (about 9,000 acres maintained through federal partnerships), and conservation easements (around 1,500 acres protected in partnerships with land owners). “We pay taxes on what we own, and that’s something we want the public to know. It’s not harmful to the community,” Huffines shares. Each day is full of patrolling, making boundaries, scientific studies, managing encroachments and trespasses, working with the community, and expanding the educational programs, in addition to the business of maintaining the finances and legalities of more than 17,000 acres.
Huffines explains it well when he says, “Preserving this land helps preserve the traditions of the area, like hiking, biking, bird watching, camping, kayaking, and studying wildlife.”
The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land came into Chattanooga about 25 years ago to help organize efforts to expand the city’s greenways. They created a master plan for greenways in and around the city and continue to work with governmental and other nonprofit groups to retain space for these purposes. While they are a national nonprofit, the bulk of the work they do for Tennessee is in Chattanooga.
“The greater Chattanooga area is blessed with many nonprofits committed to conservation and stewardship.”
Jenny Park, state director of The Trust for Public Land, works from their Chattanooga branch and is very passionate about protecting land for people’s use. The organization makes a special effort to incorporate the community’s needs into their designs. “Our focus is really ‘land for people.’ It’s in our mission statement, and it makes our work a little different from other conservation organizations. Our purpose is to conserve land for the benefit of people – social gatherings, greenways, recreation – we want to create high-quality public space. We’ve laid a really strong foundation in Chattanooga with almost 20 miles of greenways in place. Now that we have established the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway and the Riverwalk is continuing to expand, we have a perimeter of greenways around the city, and we are beginning to connect into neighborhoods.”
That connection into neighborhoods is part of the trust’s “10-Minute Walk” campaign, which pushes for accessibility, meaning they want all community members to be within a 10-minute walk to a public park or greenway. “Everything we do now is done through the lens of access – who will be able to utilize this space we’re working on?” Park says.
These neighborhood initiatives and the great success of establishing greenways in the area are thanks in part to numerous partners who work with The Trust for Public Land. As they typically don’t hold any land, only sell or donate what they acquire, they work with other local organizations and entities (who do hold the land) to maintain stewardship and implement parks and greenway plans.