Walden’s Ridge Park Nears Its Opening Day
This is the final installment in a series detailing the trail construction and modernization of Walden’s Ridge Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
By Lucy Higgins • January 18, 2023
For nearly seven years, a coalition formed at the edge of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau has been inching toward their goal: to make a 200-acre park that caters to boulderers, mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners. As we enter into 2023, that goal—the creation of Walden’s Ridge Park—draws close.
After receiving the initial parcel of property in 2016 as a donation to preserve the surrounding scenic views, the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy (NCCC) quickly teamed up with The Land Trust for Tennessee and began expanding on the opportunity presented to them. It was their hope that, with enough involved groups, including the Chattanooga branch of Southern Off-Road Biking Association (SORBA), Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC), and Hamilton County Parks and Recreation, they could cater to the growing outdoor community in Chattanooga, just a 10-minute drive away.
After all, the landscape offered endless trail development opportunities, ranging from hike-to waterfalls, to boulders and slopes practically designed for mountain biking trails. “You’re sitting right below the start of the Cumberland Plateau,” says Steve Kasacek, an IMBA Trail Solutions project manager who helped coordinate Walden Ridge’s bike trails. “So you get this really rugged landscape. There’s so many slope changes; you get steep stuff, mellow stuff, really good dirt, big rocks, little rocks—really challenging.”
“We had a real diverse mix of users, it’s really close to neighborhoods so it was a challenging project to bring to life,” Kasacek continues. But, after countless hours from IMBA Trail Solutions’ team designing the high-quality gravity trails, as well as hiking and running trails, volunteers began showing up in droves to help create the modern, practically designed routes.
And soon enough, those hours began to show tangible results. Walden’s Ridge Park construction had been divided into three phases, and the first, which focused on creating “access trails to boulders, a mid-mountain connector, a climbing trail, and descending trails,” per the Walden’s Ridge website, is complete. Phase 2 is underway and focuses on more descents, and a trail to Read’s Spring, and a lower trail. As Phase 2 wraps up, the final phase of construction focuses on parking maintenance and fundraising to create additional trails.
While no specific date for the park’s opening has been announced, those involved are hoping for early 2023. But an opening date doesn’t mean the end of adaptation and expansion. After all, creating and modernizing a park and its trails is an ongoing process, one that matures in conjunction with user groups and their skill level and equipment. For the Walden’s Ridge coalition, this is just the beginning.