Having overcome an array of rights-of-way negotiations and pathway logistics, this new leg of the Riverpark helps to fulfill a promise to the people of Hamilton County made 30 years ago: a commitment to create a beautiful, linear pedestrian Riverpark of more than 13 uninterrupted miles — all the way from Chickamauga Dam to the city's southern border.
"This latest extension will create hours of enjoyment for our residents and visitors as they stroll along the Riverwalk," said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger. "We deeply appreciate the efforts of the business community, foundations like Lyndhurst, Benwood, Cigna, BlueCross and BlueShield and private citizens who directed their contributions through the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, as well as volunteers who have worked so hard to complete the vision that began 30 years ago. Their dedication and commitment have made this possible and we humbly thank them for allowing more people to enjoy the natural beauty of Hamilton County."
"The Riverwalk is a jewel of the city, enjoyed by countless Chattanoogans and visitors every day and all year long," said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. "Now, with the new three mile extension, we will open the Riverwalk up to more neighborhoods and communities, ensuring more of our citizens have the access and opportunity to enjoy this important amenity."
Among the new Riverwalk amenities are a wider paved trail (to 12-feet) and a lovely amphitheater and landscaped lawns below the west side terminus of Martin Luther King Boulevard at Riverside Drive. This is where the public is invited to gather on August 12 for festivities that celebrate the Riverwalk and history of Blue Goose Hollow, home to Chattanooga's heralded Bessie Smith who began singing for coins there as a young girl.
The segment now being unwrapped still leaves the difficult construction of a Broad Street crossing and a short half-mile connector to the Incline station.
Unlike the openness of the first 10 miles, which leads trekkers through wetlands and wooded stretches, the newest tract of the Riverwalk traverses a big chunk of the city's industrial heritage. Winding through and around the borders of still active industries, as well as a few that are closed, the new 12-foot wide addition goes where muscle and steel long meshed to produce hard-earned prosperity.
In one complex of plants, giant boilers manufactured for power plants were shipped out on huge barges at the river's edge to global destinations. The huge crane for that work remains. Elsewhere, foundries, steel plants and metal works built huge pipes, myriad industrial parts and jobs for more thousands of workers who found steady employment through much of the region's history.
The freshly landscaped Riverpark defines an industrial experience on one side, and on the other vibrant green spaces and pavilions, public art and river and mountain views.
Along its path, walkers, runners, bicyclists and skaters will also see evidence of the Southside's burgeoning renaissance and a new residential boom. Since local leaders committed in 2012 to build this Riverpark segment, builders have invested more than $220 million in new residential units, sprouting waves of condos, apartments and new businesses.
It's no surprise that the popular Riverpark continues to be an economic driver for the city. Since its inception 30 years ago, total investment in the Riverpark has amounted to $150 million, mostly through federal, state and private grants. That sounds like a large figure, but in reality it’s a small fraction of the private investment and job growth it has helped spawn to bolster the region's latest renaissance.
"It's been exciting to see the incredible transformation of the riverfront and how the Riverwalk has become such an integral part of the community. This expansion provides even more opportunities for walking, biking, relaxing and learning about the city’s history. It also adds to the authentic experiences and quality of life that Chattanooga offers locals and visitors alike," said Bob Doak, president and chief executive officer, Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The latest tourism statistics show that visitors spent more than $1 billion dollars in Hamilton County which supports 8,500 full-time jobs in the tourism industry."
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, Riverwalk enthusiasts can enjoy live music, a party at SpringHill Suites, contests, refreshments and more. For a complete guide to the weekend's events, click here.