John Shearer: Exploring and Searching For Greenways, Part 13 -- The Belvoir Circle And Triangle, And Barger’s Refreshingly Retro Playground

Monday, August 10, 2020 - by John Shearer

One of the joys – and surprises -- I have found of checking out greenways, parks and open spaces within Hamilton County is that I am seeing so many areas of Chattanooga for the first time.

 

And I did not just move here three months ago!

 

Such was the case on Saturday, when I saw two unique plots of mini-open space in the Belvoir area between Brainerd Road and North Terrace that looked as if they could have been designed by a geometry professor rather than a developer.

 

That is because one is shaped like a circle and another like a triangle.

 

And after passing the front of Barger Academy of Fine Arts on Brainerd Road for decades, I saw for the first time the back fields of it – where a very neat vintage collection of mid-century playground equipment sits.

It almost appears to be a museum to past outdoor play – causing baby boomers like me to feel young again.

 

I had decided to visit this area last week after seeing a photograph in the Times Free Press of a couple of violinists playing at what was described as Belvoir’s Triangle Park. Realizing I had never been there before, or even heard of it, I decided that would be my next greenway visit.

 

And while looking at an online map of that area Friday night, I noticed a nearby circular space as well, so I wanted to visit it, too.

 

So, a little after 9:30 a.m. Saturday, after I fueled up myself on a Hardee’s cinnamon raisin biscuit and a biscuit and gravy, and my car on some gasoline, I left the Northgate Mall area heading over there.

 

I have always tried to figure out the quickest way to come and go from that area of town, and this time was pleased to zip on over there along Highway 153 and the Interstate to the Belvoir Avenue exit in no more than 15 minutes.

 

All three of the green spaces I visited sit between Belvoir Avenue, Moore Road, Brainerd Road and North Terrace. I had actually visited and seen some similar mini-parks before a few weeks earlier across Brainerd Road as part of another story in this series, so I knew these types of spaces were part of the residential community landscape in this part of town.

 

Kudos to whomever designed the streets in this area to allow for not only a little park space, but unusual park space at that. It might have been easy to design a bunch of squared off streets, but this person was thinking and trying to make a residential community even more appealing.

 

Of course, that might have been somewhat of a national trend at that time, probably beginning shortly before World War II, when the automobile was becoming an important part of transportation.

 

This area also has some simply gorgeous homes from right before or right after World War II, and probably at a little better deal than in some other places of town with similar style homes. However, I would assume these homes in good condition and at a fair market price still get bought up quickly and at a price that slightly limits the potential buyers.

 

A few blocks away, in the area around Moore Road, however, the homes are more modest, generally less appealing looking and a few are not kept up overly well.

 

The nicer Belvoir homes around the two parks can also be described as diverse. Within a few yards of Triangle Park, for example, I saw a bungalow, a neat mid-century modern home (complete with a mid-century mailbox) and numerous cottage-style homes with jutting and arching – and handsome -- front entrances.

 

Although this is a story about green spaces, this Belvoir area does show how homes and parks can complement and improve each other.

 

One other point about Belvoir is that it is a basically flat area – which is unusual for Chattanooga – so the developer had an easier time laying it out.

 

The first park I visited is the circular park at the end of Tuxedo Circle, which I entered via South Tuxedo Avenue off Brainerd Road. This spot in some ways could be considered a giant cul-de-sac, but a much more interesting one than those found in many bland suburban developments of recent decades.

 

The cul-de-sac here is a giant disc of greenery about 60 to 75 yards in diameter.

 

It is mostly grass, with trees lining one outer area, some nice rock landscaping in another place, and a volleyball net and some picnic tables. It could possibly be even better landscaped overall from my perspective as a first-time visitor, but just having this park here is icing on the cake.

 

I tried to count, and it seems like close to 15 handsome homes surround it, and they help the park’s aesthetics, and vice versa. In other words, one could say some of the best views in this park might just be outside its boundaries toward the visually appealing homes of old, and who living in these homes does not enjoy having some green instead of the Greens right across the street!

 

I understand that Circle Park at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville was once surrounded by homes like this area.

 

I am not sure if this is called Circle Park or Belvoir’s Circle Park, but neither it nor Triangle Park are apparently owned by the city of Chattanooga, based on the lack of city park signage. Further research would also be required to see who does the park maintenance.

 

But all I can say is that it is a neat little piece of open space that probably countless Chattanoogans have not seen before.

 

I then got back on Brainerd Road heading east, went past a very small soccer field that displayed words like “private property” and “no trespassing” on signs, and then turned right onto South Sweetbriar Avenue.

 

I first crossed a ditch that, in keeping with the spirit of this area, had nice landscaping and more of a park-like feel than most manmade runoff ditches I see.

 

I soon came upon what had to be Triangle Park at the intersection of Mayfair Avenue. Unlike some Chattanooga parks, I did not have to wonder where this name originated.

 

This park, with each side roughly 50-to-60 yards long, had several large trees covering it, causing it to be quite shady. As a result, growing grass in places here might be a little harder, and so apparently is taking pictures in the shadows.

 

The big triangle also had a nice pavilion, complete with three plastic storage bins that said “Grace Neighborhood Food Pantry” on them. It must use the “take a little, leave a little” concept, and that was neat.

 

This park also has a Belvoir Neighborhood Association sign at one corner, complete with a map showing how to look for bluebirds in the area.

 

What stood out to me the most, though, were all the picnic tables here. I deduced that people in the Belvoir community like to have picnics!

 

Overall, the park was another neat space of green in a sea of homes. And, like the circular park, it also did not have any playground equipment, perhaps by design.

 

However, I did find plenty of that at my final green space stop of the morning – the back recreational fields of the Barger Academy of Fine Arts at 4608 Brainerd Road.

 

When I was growing up, this area was known as the Henry L. Barger Elementary School. It was a school that opened in the mid-20th century at a time when Brainerd was growing and was one of the more popular middle-class suburbs of town.

 

On numerous occasions spanning decades, I had been by this school while on Brainerd Road in an automobile.

 

However, this was my first time to see the back area of it. It has a large grassy area maybe 100 yards by 100 yards, which is plenty for an elementary school. Within that area is an elevated old baseball field complete with a neat, mid-century-style backstop that features vertical and horizontal fencing around and above home plate.

 

There is also a fading-but-neat sign that says “Barger Field” above it.

 

Needless to say, my mind traveled back to when I was a youngster in the late 1960s and early 1970s and could have been playing little league baseball on this field of dreams when the backstop was likely new and shiny.

 

But I had just begun to be carried back to the good old days of when I was in elementary school elsewhere.

 

Down below the ball field on the side closest to Missionary Ridge were several heavy-duty and old pieces of metal playground equipment. Surrounding a smaller, newer, plastic-lined and less-interesting playground set were an old-school swing set, some vintage and ground-level balance beams, some parallel bars, an old and steep slide, several monkey bars/horizontal ladders, and some other 1950s- or 1960s-era centers of steel fun.

 

Another one was a wavy-shaped metal climbing bar designed to be in keeping in the spirit of wavy roof lines that were part of mid-century-modern architecture.

 

Yes, I had fully returned to the 1960s again!

 

An Olympic-caliber gymnast might enjoy spending a little time here, too.

 

The back field also had a nice overall grassy area – although it badly needed a mow job, which was likely coming soon with school starting this week.

 

Because I judge a park space of a certain size by whether it has enough room for someone to take a jog of 30 minutes or so on grass without getting too bored with the surroundings or having to take too many of the same laps, I decided to take a short jog before leaving.

 

And I enjoyed the experience. That included looking at the architecture of the mid-century school that is dotted with windows almost like the Triangle Park is with picnic tables. But I love that aesthetic look and hate classrooms or offices without an adequate number of windows.

 

While on the grounds, I saw one or two people, who were likely teachers, outside the front of the school upon arrival, and another teacher, who was unloading some items in the back with her family when I was leaving.

 

The latter person unfortunately had her class in one of those portable classrooms. That seemed a shame to me that she did not get to enjoy fully being in a neat mid-century school building, even if it does appear to need a little paint and other touchup work.

 

The back recreational field needs a little work as well, despite its great potential. After mowing, I would cut down all the overgrown bushes by the ballfield, fix or replace all the chain link fencing, and maybe clean up the rust on the metal surfaces of the vintage playground equipment.

 

But the powers that be should definitely keep them there. The vintage baseball backstop needs a little restoration work, as does the sign, but they are also worthy of preservation.

 

This whole area behind the school is badly calling out for the community or perhaps those with money to get it fixed up and make it more inviting for both current students, and members of the community during non-school hours of evenings and weekends. A walking path and a better rear entrance for the neighborhood pedestrians are other suggestions after a quick glance.

 

But despite all it needs done to it, this back area of grass and recreational amenities has those most important of ingredients needed to become a popular green space – charm and appeal.

 

So, too, do those uniquely shaped park spaces a few hundred yards west that likely bring out another geometric shape of approval to Belvoir residents – a semi-circular smile!

 

* * * * *

After this story was originally posted, resident Susan Whitmire emailed some additional information on how the two main Belvoir green spaces and other smaller spots are maintained. "Our neighborhood prides itself on being a neighborhood, knowing your neighbors and walk-ability,” she said. "We have a Green team that keeps up the entrances and random little triangles. Each spring the entire neighborhood is encouraged to volunteer for Clean-up Day, where more weeding, trimming and mulching occur. The BNA (Belvoir Neighborhood Association) pays for supplies, plants, mulch, etc. even in the roundabouts, and mowing Tuxedo Circle and The Triangle (s).”


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To see the previous story in this series, click here: https://www.chattanoogan.com/2020/7/17/412221/John-Shearer-Exploring-and-Searching.aspx

 

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Jcshearer2@comcast.net


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