John Shearer: Exploring And Searching For Greenways, Part 21 – Seeing Middle Valley Park, And Dreaming Of Additional Nearby Greenway Spaces

Saturday, December 26, 2020 - by John Shearer

For this entry in my series on parks and green spaces, I decided to visit Middle Valley Park in North Hixson.


It is a Hamilton County recreation park that is primarily used for sports through the Middle Valley Youth Association and is basically not for pastoral recreation.

But if you play sports like baseball, soccer, tennis and football and are maybe a teenager or younger, you probably love the park.


If you are a parent who lives nearby, you probably like it, too, although those looking for a more natural and tranquil place to take a jog or a mini-hike or walk their dogs might have to go to either the Greenway Farm off Hamill Road or Chester Frost Park.


But I envisioned where maybe at least a more aesthetically pleasing walking path could be built here. And since we have been in the season of people going to sleep with dreams of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads, I also dreamed of some places nearby that would be simply stunning public greenway spaces on the level of Greenway Farm.


I say that realizing that some of those places might already be pinpointed for future residential or commercial developments, or they are simply buffer areas in private hands or are for private use and pleasure. But hey, we can at least dream!


I had gone up to Middle Valley Park on Tuesday afternoon when the weather was perfectly stunning and mild for Dec. 22 in Chattanooga. I had headed up North Hixson Pike from our Northgate area home with my 13-year-old Westie, Maisie. Within 15 minutes – including after being slowed by a few stoplights – I felt drawn to pull into a small pull-off area I had noticed a few days earlier.


In front of me was a simply beautiful and large meadow across the street from Bryden’s Market produce stand in the 8400 block of Hixson Pike in the Lakesite community. With Maisie trying to figure out what I was doing, I simply got out and walked maybe 5 or 10 yards in a couple of directions near the busy street to take some pictures of the nice and expansive meadow.


I probably looked to passersby like a Realtor or developer, but I thought how neat it would be if the land remained just as it is, with only a small parking area and a paved path around it. And maybe some picnic tables could be put under the few trees.


To me, it would be a peaceful park, despite the Daytona Speedway-like roar of automobiles zooming down Hixson Pike.


I then climbed back in the car and backtracked on Hixson Pike to Crabtree Road. After turning right there, I soon went past the vintage Middle Valley Park wooden sign and into the park space by Port Serena subdivision.


Since I grew up in Valleybrook, I know this area has been developed since at least the 1960s. although some newer homes could also be found around the soccer fields in an area that might have been a new extension of the park.


Because the minimal baseball and tee ball playing I did took place in the opposite direction toward town, with games played at DuPont and Rivermont elementaries, I had only been to the park once before. That was in the mid-1970s, when Valleybrook friend Kurt Schmissrauter and I went to see another neighborhood friend, David Taylor, play in a recreational tackle football league for those closer to high school age. I actually did not know such a league had existed until then.


So, Tuesday was my second visit. When Maisie and I pulled into the park, I realized it was void of users except for five young men playing pickup football, a couple later playing tennis, a Sheriff’s Department patrolman taking a break, and a dog (not Maisie) briefly running across the soccer fields.


I did see one or two cars head for the recycle center in one corner, only to find out that it is open only on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. 


Since I saw some “no dogs allowed” signs on the gates to the ballfield, I found a couple of places where Maisie and I could walk around mostly the outskirts of the park and I could take some pictures.


The park has 10 ballfields, two football fields, three soccer fields, eight tennis courts and three concession stands, The facilities are enhanced, or made more unique, with an “MV” sign for Middle Valley, one old-style sign for Booker McBee Field, some “MV” metal signs on the foul poles, and some vintage and slightly rusted protective vertical and horizontal fencing around the home plates.


Away from the well-manicured fields, I did find a couple of sites that would have been of more interest to the Appalachian Trail hikers of the world.


Besides a neat row of trees near the entrance, the area also featured some wooded plots and an adjacent undeveloped area that could have been cleaned out with trails and walking paths. Such a path could possibly also loop around the perimeter of the park. 


This would allow the site to be a bigger draw this time of year, although it is no doubt busy during youth soccer, baseball and soccer seasons. 


One area by the woods had also become a little bit of a dumping ground, and that would need to be cleaned up first.


I also saw something unique at this park that would grab the attention of the Charles Lindberghs of the world. While I was there, I noticed a plane do some take offs and landings from the adjacent Hixson airstrip.


And I am talking a real Cessna-type plane, not the small drones that make the somewhat ear-piercing hums and that hobbyists often like to take to parks. As many know, the Dallas Bay Sky Park is located there, and I even remember going up in a plane from there back around the early 1970s with my flying father, Wayne Shearer, and flying over our home in Valleybrook and being mesmerized. 


It was a neat experience doing a different kind of bird watching at a park on this day, too. I peeked through the narrow and wooded buffer between the park and the airstrip and wondered how a walking trail could be put somewhere along the strip, too, without affecting safety regulations.


As someone who likes to jog on fields, I found plenty of grassy areas on which to jog at this park, though. I could have seen myself spending an hour taking large laps on a nice day when the grounds were mostly void of young ballplayers and I did not have Maisie with me.


But I was glad to have visited yet again a park in the Chattanooga area I had hardly seen before, even though it was only two or three miles from where I spent the first two decades of my life and where my father still lives.


Regarding potential additional park space in this part of Chattanooga/Hamilton County, it would be really neat in my opinion if at least one of the remaining fields and wooded areas within a mile or so of Middle Valley Park would also become greenway space.


Besides that meadow I photographed up by Lakesite, other potential areas for such pastoral and passive recreation as path walking and vista gazing are some fields just south of Jackson Mill Drive and Hixson Presbyterian Church off Hixson Pike.


If that land is spoken for, how about the beautiful pasture just north of Hixson High School and on the same side of Middle Valley Road, or some nice bottomland near Lower Mill Road off Middle Valley Road that I spotted a few weeks back while making a rare visit to that road?


While Greenway Farm and Chester Frost Park are nice and fairly close, the remaining other spaces seem too pretty to all be turned into residential or commercial plots.


And while Middle Valley Park is a great site and nice place for kids to wind up their fastballs, for adults or families simply wanting to unwind their emotions by glancing over the horizon, give me these lands anytime.


And that is my Christmas and holiday season dream for this year!


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To see the previous story in the series, read here:


* * * * *

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