One week after committing to preserve Chattanooga's Lincoln Park, Mayor Andy Berke shared the news with supporters in an online video.
The minute-long video, called "Preserving Lincoln Park," features Berke narrating about a press conference held last Friday, in which both the mayor and Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel verbally committed to ensuring that the 5 acres of land making up the park, which is owned by Erlanger, would not be forfeited to future development or plans to extend Central Avenue.
"The preservation of Lincoln Park is a chance to celebrate our history and strengthen one of Chattanooga's most unique neighborhoods," Berke says, acknowledging the park's history as the city's first public park for the black community, along with being one of the only parks of its kind designated for blacks across the Southeast.
Despite describing the commitment as cause for celebration, the mayor makes no mention of a key component in determining the land's fate—a vote by Erlanger's board of trustees to approve transferring the park to the Trust for Public Land.
Board members were scheduled to vote on a resolution to transfer the land last week but delayed a decision after the item was quickly placed on the agenda. Several board members expressed a desire for additional time to study the process, according to a Times Free Press report.
Jeff Cannon, who is deputy chief of staff and chief innovation officer for Berke, said Friday he was confident the board would approve transferring the land, adding that he didn't think the delay would cause strain between the city and the hospital. Cannon said he expected members of Berke's administration to formally present their proposal for the Lincoln Park land sometime in early October.
"It's all process," he said. "And so it's a little bit of a long process. Basically, Spiegel has agreed, the mayor agreed, and the neighborhood is for it. The small nuances are what need to be worked out."
To board member Russell King, the nuances demand clear discussion. Despite being in support of preserving Lincoln Park and honoring its heritage, King said he and other board members wanted to know the city's specific plans for the area—particularly for extending Central Avenue.
"I'm very sincere; I'm all for doing something," King said. "But I don't know what specifically that would be, and I do have some reservations about doing something for Lincoln Park when we don't even know where the road is going. And the question I have is, what's in the best interests of Erlanger?"
King added his desire to have a better grasp on the land's value because areas nearby could potentially serve as a connector between Amnicola Highway and areas close to downtown. The board member also said that although a possible extension of Central Avenue would be an added benefit to the hospital and the community at large, he wanted more details before giving final approval.
"I'd just hate to walk off and leave it," he said.
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