John Shearer: Exploring And Searching For Greenways, Part 16 -- Rivermont Park And Blue Goose Hollow Trailhead

Monday, September 28, 2020 - by John Shearer

As I continue trying to examine different parks or potential parks and green spaces locally, I went by and inspected Rivermont Park, which I had not covered when previously writing about recreational places just north of downtown Chattanooga.

 

The multi-faceted park has slowly evolved over the years, and now it might be evolving even more due to the fact it and the adjoining Champions Club tennis facility sit next to the old Lupton City Golf Course/Dixie Yarns land.

The former mill campus is scheduled to become the Riverton multi-faceted residential development through the work of noted developer John Thornton and his Thunder Enterprises and will include greenway trails.

 

And since I saw in the news that West M.L. King Boulevard was extended to the Tennessee Riverwalk by the newish Cameron Harbor residential development last week, I decided to check out the Blue Goose Hollow trailhead there, too.

 

I first went to Rivermont Park. Since I live near Northgate Mall not too far away, I have actually been numerous times to Rivermont Park to jog by the Tennessee River since we moved back to Chattanooga in 2017. I have even gone jogging there on a few mornings in the last week or two.

 

Rivermont Park is probably best known for its baseball and softball fields and its tennis courts that are in addition to the ones at the nearby Champions Club. I have actually never used either of those facilities, although I did go and watch my nephew play little league baseball there way back in the mid-1990s.

 

What I like doing there is jogging on the grass next to the crushed rock trail that goes along the Tennessee River and offers a neat view toward downtown and Riverview. It seems as aesthetically pleasing as any up-close view of the river found in Chattanooga.

 

You can also see part of the Tennessee Riverpark across the river – at least if your eyes are still pretty good – and you can still see some of the old industrial complexes a little south.

 

When I first started going over there, I was fascinated to see across the river the old and vacant Central Soya grain processing facility, which had a hauntingly intriguing look to it. It has since been mostly torn down in recent months, I believe, and was the scene of an unfortunate accidental death during the demolition.

 

I also like the small trail that goes back up next to The Enclave at Riverview homes and provides apparent access back and forth in the northwest corner of the park. A small wetlands area during the wetter seasons can even be found here in an inconspicuous location likely oblivious to those who come to the park only for the tennis or baseball/softball.

 

Another access trail into the residences is also available closer to the main Dixie Drive park entrance road.

 

I see a number of likely nearby residents walking their dogs along the overall trail, although some seem to arrive via their automobiles and park by the tennis courts.

 

This is all neat, but I would encourage someone to pave these trails. And then maybe they could hook in with a paved elevated trail that goes along the back lots of homes on Carter Drive above the GPS soccer fields all the way to the elevated field that sits on the north side of Rivermont Elementary.

 

I am not sure if there would be right-of-way issues, and it might have to go under the power lines in places, but that seems like it would be a nice added amenity if money for such a project is available.

 

What I also like about Rivermont Park proper is the nice little sloping grassy area covered with trees and featuring picnic tables and a couple of pavilions, including one done in the nice mid-century style with a zig-zag roofline. Although a few of the trees have become decayed or diseased and some have recently been removed, it is still quite a pleasant spot, even though it is on the other side of the ballfields from the river. Some newer concrete picnic tables have also apparently been added.

 

Rivermont Park also has one of the neatest and most unique Chattanooga park structures found anywhere – a stone-wrapped smokehouse for barbecues and other grilling activities. Perhaps only the neat wooden pavilion at DuPont Park by the McKamey Animal Center off Access Road compares to it for unique outlying local park structures a few decades old.

 

I would like to know a little more history of the park. There is a 1980 marker dedicated to brothers Mose and Garrison Siskin and their support of youth activities there, but I assume part of the park dates to earlier. 

 

I remember I played T-ball and baseball briefly as a youngster in the mid-to-late 1960s in the then-named DuPont-Rivermont association, but we played at both DuPont and Rivermont elementaries, not here.

 

Rivermont Park also has a relatively large restroom and concession facility. It is so large that I have often gotten the sensation that I am going to get locked in it for days when I have to use the facilities and I see it is open when not a lot of other park users are around.

 

Rivermont Park has plenty of areas for jogging on grass and enjoying nice views of the river and woods, although I might encourage cleaning out some of the invasive plant and tree species in the thick areas on the edge of the park. 

 

The land just north of Rivermont Park that houses the city-connected Champions Club tennis facility is well manicured, however. In front of it is another great viewing spot of the Tennessee River and a place for launching boats.

 

The tennis facility sits just west of the docking area and has an appealing-looking clubhouse and tennis courts. The tennis complex also has country club-like grass surrounding it leading up to woods, and I have jogged on that as well. In fact, I saw an opossum in the grass there when I was there recently and, needless to say, we both changed directions from where we were going after spotting each other!

 

The courts here can be played on by the public for a small fee, and the facility has also been a draw for tennis tournaments and features stands. The 20 courts there are sometimes tied in with the six free-use ones in the older part of Rivermont Park for various tournaments and competitions.

 

I like nice recreational facilities like this that look like private clubs, but they are open to all. So, it got my approval!

 

While jogging near the courts Sunday a week ago, I saw a small open area near the river in the northeast corner of this part of the park and realized that it went into the land on the north side of the tennis club and featured a wide and mowed grassy area alongside the river.

 

I went back with my dog on Tuesday afternoon to take some pictures of the park, and I stuck my head a few feet into that area. I realized that not only was there a narrow path cleared along the river, but a lot of the land just west of it has been mowed as well.

 

This, of course, is the land in the Riverton development. I have not seen any updated maps, and maybe a good reporter would have checked into the future of this space, but I certainly hope maybe some greenway trails that are to be part of the development can be hooked in with the Rivermont Park/Champions Club land in some way. It would add even more recreational amenities for all in the area to enjoy.

 

I also remember that some old baseball or athletic fields stood in the lower area at the southeast corner of Lupton Drive and Dixie Drive, and maybe those can become a greenway area again by Riverton or maybe as a gift to the city – if they can get all the kudzu out!

 

On Friday, a few days after examining Rivermont Park and the edge of the Riverton property, I decided to visit the Blue Goose Hollow trailhead that is a relatively newer part of the Tennessee Riverwalk and extends down from the Ross’s Landing area off Riverfront Parkway.

 

I would love to know where the name originated, but Blue Goose Hollow was a small former residential area of town below Cameron Hill years ago and is best known as the place where noted blues singer and Chattanooga native Bessie Smith lived as a child.

 

It was likely an area of very modest residences down below the nice ones on Cameron Hill, so it would be safe to say this area is no longer Bessie’s Blue Goose Hollow with the Cameron Harbor trendy residences and nice professional office buildings.

 

When I arrived in the area about 3:30 p.m., I crossed Riverfront Parkway on West M.L. King Boulevard and found some free parking by the trailhead. I was overjoyed to actually find a place with free parking this close to the heart of downtown. The 15 or so spots designed for park and trail users did seem to be mostly filled up, though, by the time I left nearly an hour later. Among the parkers were one or two fishermen.

 

The urban trailhead has a grassy circle and a grassy square area that, combined, are about the same size as the grass in Miller Park. As a result, this grass jogger was happy, even if my shoes were getting wet after the sun did not come out as hoped after the rain. 

 

Some nice picnic tables are there, too, as are two colorful sculptures using the “resurgence” theme and done by the noted metal sculptor – and former jeweler -- Albert Paley of Rochester, N.Y., as part of a Public Art Chattanooga project.

 

The great creator of nature had taken care of much of the rest of the greenway trail’s design and landscaping with the Tennessee River and shoreline up close, and Lookout Mountain in the distance.

 

I first went to the left, or downstream, a couple hundred yards toward the old Alstom plant complex – once known as Combustion Engineering. But the grass along the path seemed to quickly disappear, so I turned around, but with plans to examine the rest of it for a future story.

 

Two big trucks with smelly fumes – and apparently at least one person smoking a cigarette – did drive through on that road that crosses over the trail, so once again I realized such pretty and urban riverside paths cannot exist totally in a nature vacuum. 

 

But right before I had crossed the vehicular road, I saw a small area that was cleared and offered a view of the river next to some turning leaves, including some poison ivy.  With its fall colors, the ivy was making itself a little more appealing than in the itchy mid-summer.

 

I then went back in the other direction beyond the trailhead entrance area and continued on toward Ross’s Landing past some nice-looking and porch-draped townhome residences that are part of Cameron Harbor. As has been well documented in the newspaper, this and other similar downtown developments are well desired by all the downtown dwellers.

 

Needless to say, this is no longer John or Daniel Ross’ Chattanooga, either.

 

What I really liked, though, was that, for the first 200 yards or so, plenty of grassy areas existed on the river side of the paved path to add just a little additional green space to this urban spot.

 

As a result, I felt as though I was as welcome here as the residents. 

 

There is also a small paved path up to a neat patio deck area that overlooks the river and is apparently open to all. At least I went up and enjoyed it for a few seconds.

 

And a little back toward the trailhead is one grassy overlook area where one better be a little careful, because it dropped down about 10 feet or more into the river.

 

A rocky beach-like area was also found within the first 200 yards or so of the trailhead going back toward the Tennessee Aquarium and the bridges.

 

Of course, a few signs that this area is also used heavily by the residents and that they co-exist with the Riverwalk users and maybe other residents in the space could be found in some metal signs. Some markers reminded people to clean up after their pets, and others strongly encouraged the human species not to get on the grass on the residential side of the paved path.

 

One who is looking for a quieter walking path freer of people -- like a trail more on the outskirts of town – will probably not find it here most of the time, due to its easy accessibility to countless nearby residents on foot, bicycle or automobile.

 

Overall, examining the Blue Goose Hollow trailhead was a neat experience, though, and a place for me to remember to go jogging or walking again. It is not necessarily any prettier than the area around Ross’s Landing, especially with the views of the bridges at the latter. But it did seem to offer a little different way to enjoy the scenic beauty of Chattanooga as well as provide some rejuvenating tonic for the eyes and soul in the form of the natural aesthetics.

 

I know I certainly felt better for a few minutes after leaving – even while having to sit in heavy automobile rush-hour traffic with wet shoes as I slowly crossed the Chief John Ross/Market Street Bridge to go home!

 

* * * * *

 

Follow-up Note: After I wrote the previous story in the series on the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway by East Chattanooga and the section that goes through the old Sterchi Farm, Ron Linfonte sent an email. He said that some lesser-known action in the Battle of Missionary Ridge had taken place in the farm area. To see that story – minus the military history -- read here.

https://www.chattanoogan.com/2020/9/12/415074/John-Shearer-Exploring-And-Searching.aspx

 

* * * * *

 

Also, when I wrote Part 10 of this series back in May, some of it focused on the Westside area by downtown Chattanooga and the park located there next to several public housing complexes. Since Chattanooga leaders have recently announced plans to look at re-envisioning the Westside area with the public’s input, here is a link to that story.

https://www.chattanoogan.com/2020/5/24/409562/John-Shearer-Exploring-And-Searching.aspx

 

* * * * *

 

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

 


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