Chattanooga is a bustling mid-size city. Once an environmental wasteland, it has garnered widespread admiration for its turnaround into a beautiful outdoor mecca.
In the mid-1980′s, Chattanooga was hemorrhaging citizens. Young people went to college and didn’t come back. Businesses were shutting down. After 5PM, the downtown corridor was deserted.
There was no Coolidge Park. The Walnut Street Bridge was scheduled for demolition. The word ‘startup’ would have been received with, “do what now?”. There were no innovative retail developments like 2NorthShore. Iconic local businesses like Rock/Creek, Greenlife Grocery, and Smart Furniture were yet to exist.
The outdoor recreation that has become so central to the city’s identity remained isolated in fringes, enjoyed only by the burliest adventurers, like Rock/Creek co-founders Marvin Webb and Dawson Wheeler (forgive the cellphone picture of a framed photo).
Fast forward 25 years. Young people are flocking to Chattanooga to work in its thriving local businesses and play in its mountains, rivers, and forests. After 5PM, there is burgeoning night life with fantastic local restaurants like Meeting Place, Lupis, and Urban Stack to name a few. The majestic Walnut Street Bridge spans the Tennessee, linking pedestrians to the north and south shores–a proud demonstration of visionary urban planning and preservation. There is a robust and growing startup ecosystem. Rock/Creek sits at the center of a local shopping development that caters to what has become an entire culture emblematic of today’s Chattanooga. The city boats some of the finest climbing, paddling, trail running, hiking, hang gliding, mountain biking, cycling, and backpacking in the world. It is truly a mecca.
RootsRated, the startup I co-founded last year, exists because of these changes to the city’s fabric. It’s an exciting place to be, and we strive to connect people to our best local experiences.
If you’re thinking about what to do this Saturday, here are a few ideas of which we’re particularly fond.
Start the morning with a latte at the Camp House. Enjoy the beautiful contrast between steel rafters and white, wooden ceilings, as sunlight floods into what was once a 19th century manufacturing space.
Then hit the trail. Drive 30 minutes to Prentice Cooper to run the 10.2 mile Mullens Cove Loop. With Soft single track and breathtaking views of the Tennessee River Gorge, this is seriously one of the best trail running experiences in the continental United States. Be sure to bring some energy bars and enough liquid to stay hydrated.
When you finish, you’re going to be hungry. Hit up Mojo Burrito for $1 tacos and a nice cold Mexican Beer, and then head over to Coolidge Park with a frisbee and a good book (I highly recommend Airships by Barry Hannah). A nap might not be a bad idea either.