John Shearer: With June 8 community meeting scheduled, Scott Martin excited to lead city parks

From an early age, Scott Martin knew he wanted to work in a parks-related vocation.

And since he started his professional career, he also knew he wanted to do such a job in Chattanooga, even though he’s not from here.

“In the world of parks, Chattanooga is a big deal,” he said of the community that has taken on the nickname Outdoor City in recent years because of its vast green spaces and scenic spots.

“You want to be here if you work in the parks.”

As further evidence, he mentioned that he made a personal list in 1998 of communities where he would like to work, and Chattanooga was on the list.

Mr. Martin recently began serving as administrator of the revamped City Parks Department, now called Chattanooga Parks & Outdoors and which has become the umbrella for such divisions as Parks, Recreation, Open Spaces, planning and design, and Outdoor Chattanooga.

He said it’s the largest department he’s overseen after recently leading the nonprofit River Heritage Conservancy, which created a 600-acre park by the Ohio River in Louisville, Ky. He has also worked in areas as diverse as Virginia and Idaho and is happy to be back surrounded by mountains after being in the flatter Louisville area.

“Being near the mountains reminds us of how small we are,” he said with a smile.

But his hopes for the future of city parks are high, and during an interview at Riverview Park, his eyes were equally focused as much down as up on all the high places. In fact, while he likes parts of this park off Barton Avenue, he said he might not have put a concrete sidewalk in the middle of the grass, adding that he leaves less space for various recreational activities on grass only.

He’s also had other visions since arriving, and he wants the Chattanoogans to join him in planning the future of the city’s park system. Saying the city hasn’t done any planning for its parks in about two decades, he said an initial community planning meeting will be held Wednesday, June 8, in the auditorium of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

“We’re launching our generation’s initiative to ask ‘what’s next?’ for the neighborhoods, outdoors and livability of Chattanooga through the citizen creation of a new plan for parks and outdoors – the POP,” he said, adding that they want to inspire people to “open their goals”.

The event, lasting from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., will include a review of planning boards by Colorado-based Design Workshop, a presentation, a live survey, and attendee interactions with planning materials and l planning team.

Mr. Martin said he was excited to see what will come out of the meeting and further planning.

“If you do it right, it becomes very predictable and doable,” he said of the long-term goals for the parks plan. “It can’t be a plan that sits on a shelf and gathers dust.

“If you build a good park system, great things happen.”

The planning, which will include future meetings and even park officials coming to neighborhood meetings if invited, will include everything from improving existing parks and their accessibility to the eventual creation of more park land. .

Mr. Martin, who said more information about the planning process can be found at www.chattanoogaparksandoutdoorsplan.comsaid he had already learned that Chattanoogans love to talk about their parks and green spaces.

And as Chattanooga becomes increasingly dense, with an increasing number of residences and commercial spaces, parks and their availability become even more important in making areas livable, he added.

As he spoke in his energetic and enthusiastic manner, he repeatedly used as an example how Central Park has improved life in Manhattan New York.

“The only way to have density is to have parks,” he said. “We know the two work in sync.”

Mr Martin jokingly added that he had been a keen observer of calls for denser, more residential development due to a housing shortage here and elsewhere, as he and his wife, Jennifer, and their two Dalmatians n Have only been able to find one place to rent in Middle Valley so far.

As for the city’s overall view of future planning for the park, he added that Mayor Tim Kelly is very interested in it, and that’s part of what got Mr Martin excited about the idea. to work in Chattanooga. “The mayor said we want to build a city in a park, and I said I’ll be your Huckleberry” (partner in making it happen), he laughed.

Mr. Martin’s appreciation for parks began while growing up in Hopewell, Va., south of Richmond. He then attended Boise State University and became a huge fan of the football program known for its blue artificial turf.

But it was also the green spaces that caught his attention, and he became a park ranger during his university studies. He later became Partnerships Coordinator for the Parks System in Boise, and he also held positions such as Director of Parks and Recreation and Leisure Services in Franklin County, Virginia, and Director of Parks for The Parklands. of Floyds Fork in Louisville.

Since arriving in Chattanooga, he has also tried to visit all 87 parks in the city system. His favorites include St. Elmo Park at 4909 St. Elmo Ave. among the oldest parks and Southside Community Park at 3501 Central Ave. among the most recent.

He added that he was excited to work in Chattanooga at a time when parks here and everywhere are gaining more attention and becoming even more high-profile parts of urban areas as development pressures increase. This, in turn, heightened the role of his work and that of others, he said.

“I don’t think there’s been a more exciting time to work in public parks than today,” he said. “People seem to understand the value of city parks.”

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