Friday was just an ordinary day — except for The Howard School students who were working to clear a ravine and build a trail along Cummings Highway. For 60+ years, the ravine was used as an unauthorized dump, but no longer.
Thanks to these students, working in partnership with the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, the ravine is being restored to a healthy and natural waterway feeding into the Tennessee River.
This ravine is particularly important because it links the John Wilson Park and the newly acquired Sexton property which will become a local park.
When the restoration is complete it will safely connect the two parks with a trail and will help people of all ages and capabilities in Chattanooga’s first neighborhood, Old Wauhatchie Pike, get outside in a safe and enjoyable way.
But it will offer even more. Local teenagers will have a place to learn about nature, science and the challenges and rewards of hard work. The land trust is already working with students from The Howard School, one of several schools close to the land trust’s parks and trails.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” remarked Hunter, “but I have a lot of fun with my friends, and its nice to know we are making a difference.”
A local land trust, the Lookout Mountain Conservancy is organizing these efforts, thanks to the support of its members and Tennessee American Water Company, Colonial Pipeline Company, the Osborne Foundation, Benwood Foundation and the UN Foundation.
Land trusts work with people who want to protect their land and inspire the love of conservation.
For many people, it’s important to ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the forests and meadows, wildlife habitats and scenic views, and streams and rivers that make our region so special. There are 1,700 land trusts nationally and each one is a bit different. You can find a land trust near you using the Land Trust Alliance website, the national umbrella organization for land trusts.
Like so many other land trusts, the Lookout Mountain Conservancy is a community-supported, non-governmental, organization. It works with people from all walks of life to help them fulfill their personal, family and community goals.
This particular project offers so many benefits, including the building of a lasting commitment to nature among young people.
“We know that kids and young-adults need positive, fun, and engaging ways to connect with their peers and nature if they are going to care about it as adults,” explained Robyn Carton, CEO of the Conservancy. “In addition to helping kids with new opportunities on a personal level, we are building the next generation of conservationists, one day at a time.”
For many of the kids, working with the land trust is the first time they have spent much time in nature, let alone helped restore a natural habitat. Students are learning about the land—and they are also learning a great deal about teamwork and building community pride.
Importantly, the teenagers are picking up tangible job skills. The land trust is building a fund to hire students in the summer. These students will help with local employment by leveraging skill-building and practical knowledge of trail stewardship.
Once they finish their summer program with the land trust, area b
usinesses have agreed to hire them as paid interns.
Winston, a young man who grew up here, puts it this way: “For me, it’s great. It’s hot sometimes, but I need a job and I want to learn. Urban jobs, close to home, outdoors, are tough to find. This summer program is doing both. It helps kids like me when we wouldn’t be able to do this sort of thing — without the help of the land trust.”