Ross’s Landing Park has been named a Frontline Park by the national urban park advocacy organization City Parks Alliance.
Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a Frontline Park to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
“We selected Ross’s Landing for recognition because it exemplifies the power of partnerships to create and maintain urban parks that build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, executive director of City Parks Alliance. “We hope that by shining the spotlight on this park that we can raise awareness about both the necessity and the promise of these kinds of partnerships to spur investment in our nation’s urban parks.”
In the spring of 2005, Chattanooga capped an ambitious urban redevelopment program with the completion of a three-year initiative, dubbed the 21st Century Waterfront Plan. The $120 million project, including expansions of three major downtown attractions and more than $60 million in enhancements of public parks and recreation along the Tennessee River, crowned a 20-year revitalization process. The public park improvements along the Tennessee River include the redevelopment of Ross’s Landing Park, 2,500 feet of hard-edged shoreline for mooring leisure boats, a 40-foot wide city pier extending 160 feet into the river, and an expansion of Coolidge Park on the north shore to include 23 acres of wetlands.
In addition to moving Riverfront Parkway to create Ross’ Landing Park and transforming the state highway into a pedestrian-friendly two-lane road , the plan included a number of building projects, including expansions of the Tennessee Aquarium, the world's largest freshwater aquarium, and the Hunter Museum of American Art, which boasts one of the best collections of American art in the nation. The project also solidified Chattanooga’s long-sought connection to the river. A pedestrian path leads from the aquarium to a newly established green space area at Ross’s Landing – the site of the city’s summer music extravaganza, the Riverbend Festival. The project created better space for entertainment, with terraces stepping down to the river’s edge. In addition, the public marina was upgraded, and mooring spaces were added all along the riverfront to accommodate visitors who arrive by boat. Due to the park’s popularity, the city is continuing to enhance the waterfront park area by making improvements that will provide visitor amenities, while extending the longevity of the built infrastructure.
Founded as a trading post by a prominent Cherokee leader named John Ross, Ross's Landing is the birthplace of Chattanooga. Later on, it became known for its association with another period of Cherokee history: the Trail of Tears. The Passage, an art installation developed by five Cherokee artists from Oklahoma known as Gadugi, was included in the redevelopment of the park. The project symbolizes the path Cherokees took when they were forced to relocate from Chattanooga and other cities in the east to Oklahoma. The main artistic element is a series of seven carved and glazed 6-foot clay medallions inset into the west wall of a walkway connecting the Aquarium to Ross’s Landing. Each medallion represents a specific aspect of the tribe's history, its religious beliefs and its past struggles with colonial settlers.
“We are honored for Ross’s Landing to be recognized as a Frontline Park by City Parks Alliance,” said Larry Zehnder, administrator, Chattanooga Parks & Recreation. “Chattanooga’s public-private investments in parks and public spaces are at the center of why Chattanooga has been named ‘most livable city’ multiple times in the past decade. Ross’s Landing and the 21st Century Waterfront Plan are a model for how a city can reconnect with its roots while also shaping a vision for the future.”
Ross’s Landing Park is being featured on CPA’s website, www.cityparksalliance.org, during the month of June.