Conservation Is Key For McDonald Farm - And Response

  • Monday, February 26, 2024

McDonald Farm is a truly magnificent place, untouched for generations, saturated in stories from the past. A history that has yet to be told in its entirety, partly because its story isn’t quite over. We are now facing the loss of 871 acres of heritage.

The recent rezoning request of the property has served as a call to action for me and many others. The January town hall meeting in Sale Creek provided much insight into the plans Hamilton County officials have for the property, with County Mayor Wamp saying things such as, “We want to honor the farm, and its legacy” while at the same time announcing the possibility of a parking lot, 277 acres of industrial manufacturing, commercial headquarters, and new roads cutting through McDonald Farm to further integrate Hwy 27. Although, they did announce plans to create an industrial park.

A smarter way to facilitate a profit for the county may be from the agricultural/natural side of things, creating jobs for the community that would educate residents as well as benefit them. Conservation efforts are rising in popularity. Why not seek to get ahead of the rise and embrace the opportunity the county now has, by further enriching the county rather than placing corporations on it and calling it a day? McDonald Farm has incredible potential, the unique landscape could help ring in a new era for Hamilton County’s cultural appeal.

An early May morning on the property is known to produce the thunderous sounds of the large population of wild turkey, who inhabit the same acreage now under the threat of concrete and steel. The property serves a purpose, with over 75 different bird species recorded on the property, including the Brewer's Blackbird. Located in more than one migration path, including the Sandhill Crane, and over 30 warbler species. The sprawling game population that nurtures the thriving ecosystems already in place, are surely to be affected by the industrious plans. Plans that would undoubtedly stain the land for perpetuity. Only to contribute to declining wildlife populations across the east.

This property has stood the test of time, having always played a significant role in history. Be it Civil War activity, Cherokee settlements or peach operations. The “McDonald Clan” has seen it all, helped inspire growth in the communities they involved themselves in, touching the lives of many people along the way. People that longed for the same, to build a life worth living, for a family worth having. But…

McDonald Farm wasn’t always the community staple that it’s known as today; it was shaped that way by people that poured their time, blood, sweat and tears into creating a community. From building the Sale Creek Presbyterian Church that helped bring the first real sense of community to Sale Creek, to keeping unity even through times of great division. From changing the way East Tennessee residents live through some of the first large scale grocery chains. To amplifying the voice of Chattanooga through the paper. The McDonald family has given so much in pursuit of change. Leaving a lineage of accomplishment. A legacy worth preservation, and a legacy worth our attention.

My goal isn’t to stop Hamilton County from making money off the historically rich property. I only wish for the property to be used in a meaningful way, through producing an educational and culturally rich environment. Creating jobs for the ever-growing outdoor industry, while preserving the history for future generations. I challenge and/or encourage every reader to now take five minutes of your time to email your district commissioner or mayor’s office. It doesn’t have to be a paragraph, not even a few sentences. Just say “Save McDonald Farm”, let your county officials know where you stand. There is only one place like this, one McDonald Farm. For the story to continue, for your future, your kids, your grandkids, to never forget what Walden’s Ridge looked like 200 years ago. Conservation is key.

Mason Montague Eslinger

* * *

Regarding the disposition of the McDonald Farm: I could not say it better than Mr. Eslinger in his opinion letter. 

We have an unparalleled opportunity to preserve 800 acres of natural beauty and agricultural history. Compare that with parking lots, industrial wastes and effluent, not to mention the burgeoning growth of industrial sprawl that accompanies such development. Look at Atlanta’s growth and ask if that’s an environment where you would want to live. 

The natural beauty of this area is Chattanooga’s number one advantage; it’s what brings people to this area, and it’s what they comment most about when they return home.

Everett Kidder

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