Mayor Says Erlanger To Donate 5 Acres Of Old Lincoln Park As City Park; Action Must Still Go Through Erlanger Board

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mayor Andy Berke, at a press conference on Friday morning at the old Lincoln Park, said Erlanger Health System plans to donate five acres of the park to the city for continued park use.

The Erlanger board was due to have approved the move on Thursday night, but the item was pulled from the agenda after some board members had questions about the transfer.

Mayor Berke said he and his staff immediately began talks with Erlanger officials and board members "to provide complete information and to answer all their questions." He said he is confident that the deal will go through soon.

The mayor also assured a large group of Lincoln Park neighborhood residents that a new road extending Central Avenue to Riverside Drive "will not go through the park."

He indicated that the road will still be built in a way he said will benefit both Erlanger and Lincoln Park residents.

“Lincoln Park is an important piece of our city’s African American history and culture,” said Mayor Berke. “Preserving the park was one of the first community development projects on our radar. I want to thank Erlanger as well as Councilman Moses Freeman and surrounding neighbors for continuing to engage in this process.”

He added, “Over the next month, we will bring members of my department of Transportation and Economic and Community Development together with the Erlanger Board to answer questions and alleviate any remaining concerns regarding the transfer of this land. I am confident that we will be able to work together with Erlanger to make this transfer happen. I want to reassure everyone here today that I am 100 percent committed to preserving this park.” 

“We are committed to work with the city to make Lincoln Park available to all residents of our community and acknowledge the history that Lincoln Park stands for,” said Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE, Erlanger Health Systems president & CEO.

 

“As a trustee of the Erlanger board I am excited about this opportunity to bring our mission of changing lives to life,” said Kim White, Erlanger board member. “By working with our committed partners, the city of Chattanooga and the Lincoln Park residents, we can come together and turn this into an asset we can all be proud of.”

“We are glad to see that the Administration is taking this so seriously,” said Lincoln Park Neighborhood President Vanice Hughley. “This park means so much to our community, and I believe that we will work together to make this project work.”

 

“Lincoln Park is a great example of a neighborhood working with this administration toward a common purpose. I appreciate the hard work of everyone involved in making the preservation of this land a reality,” said Councilman Freeman.

Erlanger Vice President Gregg Gentry said the city transferred 18.3 acres at the old Lincoln Park as part of a land swap around 1979-1981. Erlanger built a child care facility on part of the tract and uses a building at the old Lincoln Park pool for construction headquarters.

The five-acre tract that is slated for a new city park includes tennis courts and the old baseball field.

At the press conference were many who grew up at Lincoln Park, including former City Commissioner John Franklin, who said he often would spend the entire day in the Olympic-size swimming pool.

UTC Vice President Richard Brown said he also played at the park that opened in 1918 near Erlanger just off the current end of Central Avenue. 

Rep. JoAnne Favors said she would walk along Central Avenue from her home on the Southside to enjoy Lincoln Park. She said, "My mother gave me a bus token to use in case of lightning."

She said it was free to enter the park, but there was a charge for the pool and the rides, that included a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, swings, kiddy cars and kiddy buggy. She said, "If you presented six Donald Duck bottle caps you could get in the swimming pool free."

Rep. Favors recalled enjoying popcorn, cotton candy and Cool Outs (snow cones) at Lincoln Park.

She said on Sundays that Lincoln Park would be so crowded "it was like Riverbend."

She said that was the only park blacks were allowed to attend. The only day of the year they could enter Warner Park was on Friday of county fair week, she stated. 

Also present at the press conference was Ben "Big Ben" Scruggs, who used to be one of the operators for the Ferris wheel and other rides.

He said Lincoln Park was the only park for blacks in the country that had amusement rides. He said blacks would come from other cities throughout the South to enjoy all that Lincoln Park had to offer, including the baseball and softball games.

He remembers as many as 65 buses parked outside the park.

Mr. Scruggs said the heyday of Lincoln Park ended when the parks were desegregated. Blacks from other cities then had other local options. Blacks in Chattanooga suddenly were able to visit Warner Park and other parks.

The crowds at Lincoln Park slimmed so much that the owner of the rides, a man named Thornhill, sold them and they were taken away, he said. 

The Olympic-size swimming pool was filled in.

Mayor Berke said he has asked the Trust For Public Land to hold public meetings to draft a plan for the best future use of Lincoln Park.  


Former Oak Ridge Police Officer Charged With Aggravated Statutory Rape, Misconduct

Special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, working with investigators with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and the office of the 7th District Attorney General, have obtained indictments for a former Oak Ridge police officer accused of aggravated statutory rape and official misconduct.  At the request of 7th District Attorney General Dave Clark, TBI ... (click for more)

Planning Commission To Review New Form-Based Code Monday At 1 PM; Start Zoning Cases At 3 PM

The Planning Commission on Monday afternoon will be reviewing the proposed Form Based Code in addition to a large number of zoning cases.   Officials said the new code and the zoning cases "have generated significant public interest so we are expecting a large crowd."  The review of the Form-Based Code by the Planning Commission is scheduled to take ... (click for more)

The History Of Avondale Recreation Center

I grew up in Avondale from third grade until I was married and two children. East Chattanooga had a center since before I was born. The only time I was gone was when I, along with six buddies, joined the USMC.   The families in Avondale, a working class neighborhood, wanted a community center closer to home so the Avondale Civic League took on the task. They raised the money ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Bad Ideas Never Work

When the Chattanooga City Council gave Kevin Muhammad, who is purportedly the “leader” of the Nation of Islam’s “Chattanooga chapter” or whatever it is, “the right” to speak for 20 anguished minutes on Monday night, everybody who heard about it could have told our city leaders it was “stinkin’ thinkin’.” My goodness, did you think he was going to read a sweet passage from the ... (click for more)

Spann Leads 13-Hit Attack, Lady Mustangs Whip Lady 'Canes, 6-2

(Story will be updated) The softball trends for Walker Valley and East Hamilton are going in different directions. After splitting two regular-season games, the fifth-seeded Lady Mustangs pulled off a mild upset in the District 5-3A softball tournament on Friday, knocking off the No. 4 Lady Hurricanes, 6-2. Actually, it wasn’t that close. The Lady Mustangs ... (click for more)

East Ridge And CFCA Reach New Contract

The city of East Ridge and the Chattanooga Futbol Club Academy (CFCA) have agreed to a new five-year soccer field-use agreement for five fields at Camp Jordan Park. The agreement allows CFCA to practice at Camp Jordan Park and play games there on fields 1-5. The East Ridge Futbol Club (ERFC) plays recreation soccer on fields 6-8 and often works with CFCA to use field 5 on Saturday ... (click for more)