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  • Jamie Nelson

The Village of Red Bank

[A future vision, as documented in a Summer 2028 travel blog]

March 28, 2023

by Jamie Nelson

The City of Red Bank in Hamilton County, TN, is probably the most beautiful small city I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. While it is independent from the City of Chattanooga, it is an enclave completely surrounded by the city. When you enter this charming town, you could be forgiven for believing you’d been transported to a British country village or market town.

The main corridor, Dayton Boulevard, is a beautiful tree-lined street with wide sidewalks and character light posts on either side. All of the buildings along the main corridor, regardless of age, have a similar feel. Whether through architecture, paint color, or styling, the town has a cohesive and intentional feel. It seems like it’s been here, just like this, for more than 100 years, which is almost unbelievable when you consider that the transformation to this quaint village began just five years ago.

If this village has a beating heart, it is the central park, known as Lion Park on the southwest corner of Dayton Boulevard and Leawood Street. The lion is the mascot of Red Bank’s sports teams, and this park is aptly named because the Red Bank Middle and High Schools were located on this plot for many decades.

Today, this jewel of the city is a gorgeous, shady, multi-purpose public park that sits up high overlooking its surroundings. Two sets of stone stairs remaining from the former schools lead you into the space. In the middle there is a large central pond. Paths branch out from the center cutting the space in to quadrants. A path winds around the perimeter, taking walkers and joggers past the Stringers Branch tributary on the southern border and the Champion Virginia Pine that was discovered on the property several years ago. Again, it looks like it’s been here for 100 years, but this park, like the street scape is part of the transformation that began five years ago.

The park is a designated outdoor classroom and part of the city-wide arboretum. On many afternoons you might encounter a school group completing a biology or ecology lesson. Landscaped with native trees and plants, students and nature enthusiasts alike can spend time identifying plant species that are not already tagged by the city’s volunteer arboretum staff who actively manage the park in conjunction with the city. As Red Bank is also a bird sanctuary, the park is home to many bird species and is a favorite spot for birding.

When I was visiting Red Bank’s Lion Park, I had a cup of coffee in the small café with outdoor seating that is open year around. The city owns the space, but leases it to a local vendor. I watched families enjoying a small playground with a model trolley car, a nod to Red Bank’s historic trolley line. In the southeast quadrant is a small, shaded sports field. On many afternoons, you can see kids playing soccer or baseball, something I hear used to be a mainstay when there was a school located here. When I was visiting, there was a mid-week farmer’s market for local vendors.

Do yourself a favor and take the time to go experience this lovely village, and be sure to stop at Lion Park. Whether it’s a shop owner or a resident you encounter, people are warm and inviting and you get the feeling that they are happy to just be here. Don’t get me wrong, Red Bankians, as they call themselves, still love venturing out to the trendy restaurants and activities in Chattanooga, but they have cultivated a rarified village life that is unlike anything else around. I was so taken with it, I’m tempted to call it home.

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