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Chattanooga's Walnut Street Bridge named a Top 10 Great Public Space for 2013

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The Walnut Street Bridge, seen from the Hunter Museum. Photo by Tracey Trumbull/ The Walnut Street Bridge, seen from the Hunter Museum. Photo by Tracey Trumbull/

The American Planning Association (APA) has designated the Walnut Street Bridge as one of 10 Great Public Spaces for 2013 under the organization's Great Places in America program. 

The APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.
The Walnut Street Bridge, a unique linear park spanning the Tennessee River, has been recognized by the organization for its history, amenities, connectivity, and citizen support. 

Once a dilapidated, dangerous bridge, it now serves as a focal point for the city and holds an honored place in the Chattanooga skyline.
The oldest and largest surviving truss bridge in the South, the Walnut Street Bridge opened to vehicular traffic in 1891. 

The bridge was closed, for safety reasons, in 1978. But plans to dismantle the iconic structure were replaced with a novel idea – supported by Chattanooga citizens and pursued by then-Public Public Works Commissioner and later mayor Ron Littlefield, AICP, and other community activists – to transform it into a pedestrian walkway.
A 1985 riverfront plan reinforced the concept of the bridge as an alternative transportation connection and catalyst for riverfront redevelopment and in 1990 the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Residents, civic leaders and historic preservationists banded together, securing the $2.5 million in federal funds originally designated for demolition, to transform the 2,376-foot-long bridge into a linear park.
Volunteers sold 1,776 plaques to raise additional private funds for the restoration, which cost $4.5 million. The two-year restoration began on the 100th anniversary of bridge's original dedication. 

The nine other APA 2013 Great Public Spaces are: 
  • Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Anchorage, AK
  • Grand Park, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Broadwalk, Hollywood, FL 
  • Norman B. Leventhal Park, Boston, MA
  • Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA
  • Forest Park, St. Louis, MO
  • Essex County Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ
  • Grand Central Terminal, New York City, NY 
  • Esther Short Park, Vancouver, WA


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