Most people who have lived in Chattanooga for any length of time know that in 1969 Walter Cronkite announced on the Evening News that the Environmental Protection Agency had named it “the dirtiest city in America.” Most people here also know that the title no longer fits at all. The city is home to the fastest internet service in the country and is attracting new industries focused on clean energy and sustainable practices. There are electric shuttles downtown, carefully curated public green spaces, and a booming industry catering to outdoor enthusiasts.
The shift from polluted industrial zone to outdoor paradise began in the 1980s, with the revitalization of the downtown core. As
plans were plotted and building of the The Tennessee Aquarium began, city officials considered transportation. Eventually, electrical shuttles were chosen as an efficient, economical solution. On June 16, 1992, the service began operation, and in retrospect, may have been one of the first major steps the city took in becoming a greener, cleaner place.
In 1993, the Walnut Street Bridge was opened to pedestrian traffic and quickly became a favorite place for both tourists and locals. Aside from offering a spectacular view of the river, the bridge provides a safe place for foot traffic, bicyclers, and others to enjoy the great outdoors.
In 1999, Coolidge Park opened on the North Shore, which was already enjoying a renaissance of its own. The park brought people to the neighborhood; art galleries, retail shops, and restaurants gave them a reason to stay.
Besides the governmental steps toward a cleaner city, private businesses began to emerge. Signal Energy Construction provides engineering, procurement, and construction services for renewable energy projects across the country. Big Frog Mountain supplies renewable energy equipment worldwide. Global Green Lighting provides low energy lighting to commercial organizations and governmental entities. The list could go on.
Chattanooga has successfully become a mecca for paddlers, bicyclers, climbers, and others who seek out nature. The Tennessee River, the mountains, creeks, and other natural wonders provide a perfect backdrop for a city working to be the cleanest, most environmentally aware version of itself possible.