When the announcement was made on April 2 that the Chattanooga city parks and a number of other recreational facilities would soon be closed temporarily to stop the spread of the coronavirus, I took note that at least one major park was staying open.
It was the Hamilton County-operated Chester Frost Park, although parts of the Enterprise South Nature Park were also open, at least before being affected by the late Sunday night storms.
For those who desire a natural area a little more aesthetically pleasing than one’s neighborhood street to go and exercise while obviously still keeping a safe distance from others, this was welcome news.
Although I had found a couple of schools with large grassy areas near where I live by Northgate Mall to run solitarily – hopefully without breaking any rules -- on Tuesday afternoon, I finally went up to check out Chester Frost Park to escape the worries of the world.
And as I expected, it looked wonderful with a few dogwoods and irises blooming amid the blue skies and mostly comfortable temperatures.
As I drove out there by going north on Hixson Pike past the two closed golf courses and Publix, I once again passed at least two pastures that are simply beautiful.
Located between the West Point and Stonewall Farms subdivisions, they are narrow and head off in an almost hypnotizing way toward Signal Mountain off in the distance, although one looked like it needed a good mow.
Further research would be required to see if these are owned by a longtime family or are already owned and earmarked for future residences by a developer. But since part of my intention with this series was to also find places that would make great future greenways, I would encourage their preservation if their fates have not already been determined.
Perhaps those who are looking at expanding the greenway system could secure them and the similarly nice field next to Hixson High School off Middle Valley Road and try to convert them into pastoral parks. To me, the spaces would add greatly to the quality of life amid a Hixson Pike that has been getting steadily busier with traffic for decades.
After passing the remaining farmland on the left, I eventually veered right onto Gold Point Circle and made my way to Chester Frost Park. On the way, I passed a couple of other nice – but much smaller -- parcels of undeveloped land, one of which said, “no trespassing.”
Once inside the park, I noticed some banners that said Chester Frost Park was 60 years old. I looked up some information at the park website after getting back home and, unlike many such sites, it actually had a little history of the park.
It said Hamilton County had accepted 230 acres from TVA as land for recreation in 1959, with County Judge (the same as today’s county mayor) Wilkes Thrasher Sr. heartily accepting it. However, he died in early 1960 as the development was apparently being finalized, so successor Chester Frost worked hard to get the park open.
It was originally called Hamilton County Park, but it was renamed Chester Frost Park in 1979.
The website also said the park land includes Dallas Hill, home of the first county seat, and the county’s oldest and first cemetery, Jackson Chapel Cemetery. The Jackson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church had evidently been where the park offices are now.
I also understand Gold Point Circle was once an older part of Hixson Pike.
Chester Frost Park is many things to many people. To some it is a place to go swimming in Lake Chickamauga or launch a fishing or ski boat. The park even has sand in places along the water to give a “beach” effect and help people feel like they are on a mini-vacation to Florida.
To others, the acreage is a place to camp or picnic or attend a warm weather gathering, and there is also an almost unnoticed set of tennis courts on one end.
And, of course, it is the site of the annual Hamilton County Fair, where getting indigestion, and not sick from congregating too closely, was once the main fear on our minds!
To me, the park is simply a neat place to exercise and see some nice strips of grass and older trees, a couple of neat 1960-era buildings with zig-zag rooflines, a few reminders of the even-older days, and some nice views of the lake.
I managed to enjoy all that on Tuesday afternoon while trying to take pictures and jog in some grass without stepping in holes and also while avoiding the good number of automobiles zipping in and out.
Running or biking off the road instead of on it is highly recommended here due to the traffic, except maybe in winter.
I can report that while dozens of people were there, everyone seemed to be practicing good social distancing, in part because there were so many different places to pull off and walk or have a picnic, etc.
Since I only had a limited amount of time, I did not go as far as the main area where the annual County Fair is held, but just jogged in the area of Jackson Chapel Cemetery near the front and took some pictures. But about any place here has some nice greenway space, although it is in a narrow layout.
On this day, everything in that area looked stunning amid the long horizon of water at ground level and seemingly endless blue sky above.
I found something timeless – the sun shining through the trees in a sparkling manner; something old – including the cemetery, an old rock-lined staircase to a now-gone church and even some old gas pumps; and something new – the collection of dogwood blossoms still in bloom on a few trees and some yellow irises by the water.
It was all beautiful, and it offered a nice break and some brief happy time away from the double troubles locally regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent tornado and storm damage that have affected so many people.
While many other communities have lakefront parks and Chester Frost Park is not quite as uniquely Chattanooga as are the mountain hiking and viewing spots and park areas by the Tennessee River, it is still an obvious local treasure.
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To see the previous story in this series, read here.
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