When Nashville residents are asked what they love most about their city, many respond with two words: green space. Over the past decade, the greater Nashville area has preserved more than 4,500 acres and created more ways for residents to live active, healthy lifestyles, enhancing the city’s quality of life and its economic well-being.
With a large increase in new residents over the last few years, the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization predicts more than 1 million people will move to Middle Tennessee in the next 20 years. Many of these will be young professionals (ages 22 to 40) from other states.
“Our young professionals are environmentally conscious, and sustainability is an important factor for them when selecting a place to live,” says Stephanie Winn, manager of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals (YP) initiative, YP Nashville (YPNashville.org). “We’re at the front end, as downtown Nashville is easily walkable, our cost of living is more affordable, and we have around 80 miles of greenways.”
Local resident Matt Genova, a YP and Lightning 100’s Team Green events coordinator, has seen an increase in the popularity of the group’s events, partially due to young professionals and their interest in living healthier lifestyles.
“Young professionals came of age when health and physical activity was a consistent topic of discussion on the national policy level,” Genova says. “I’m excited to see our greenway and trail system – as well as our system of sidewalks and bikeways – continue to expand, so active transportation becomes an ever-more-realistic option for all of Nashville.”
New Parks, Outdoor Attractions
“Most people intuitively know that a healthier, more active life is a happier life on many levels – physically, emotionally and, some would add, spiritually,” says Tim Netsch assistant director. “Parks offer a range of life-enriching experiences. Parks make people happy.”
New expansions include Beaman Park’s 568 acres in north Nashville; nearly 450 new acres added to the Warner Parks system; and a new 591-acre park in southeast Nashville near Cane Ridge High School. These projects not only provide more green space but also better serve more areas of the city.
“Over the next 12 to 18 months, we will develop the Nashville Parks Plan, which will allow residents to tell us what they want in their park system,” Netsch says.
Major developments have also occurred in and around downtown Nashville. Longtime favorite Centennial Park in west Nashville received a facelift that included unearthing the freshwater Cockrill Spring and adding winding garden paths, and more seating and spaces for events like the popular Musicians Corner series.
Near the city’s center, Riverfront Park features greenway trails, bike lanes, a garden, a 13,000-square-foot dog park, a playground and the new 6,500-seat Ascend Amphitheater. Other major additions include the $5 million Riverfront Landing Park, complete with launches for kayaking and canoeing, and the First Tennessee Park, home to the new Nashville Sounds’ baseball stadium.
In neighboring Williamson County, Franklin officials are planning to add greenways, sports facilities, neighborhood parks and a downtown riverwalk. Other outlying counties in the area offer outdoor activities along Old Hickory Lake and the Harpeth and Duck rivers.
Mindful and Active
With healthy living comes awareness. Programs enhancing Nashville’s economic and social well-being include YP Nashville, Hands On Nashville and Urban Green Lab, a nonprofit that works to inspire people of all ages to incorporate sustainability into their lives.
“We need to take a sustainable approach that will support our citizens’ and visitors’ health, enhance our financial well-being, and respect our amazing natural surroundings,” says Jennifer Tlumak Westerholm, executive director of Urban Green Lab. “Our results so far have been encouraging. In 2014, we held over 60 classes for more than 1,800 participants. With our innovative mobile lab, we expect even greater impact in 2016.”
Nashville’s food scene also features a bounty of healthy options thanks to growth in farm-to-table restaurants, farmers’ markets and urban community farming. Many Nashville restaurants use locally sourced products, and residents also have access to fresh meats and produce through CSA (community-supported agriculture) programs.
Urban Green Lab, for example, works with residents, area colleges and the city government to assist those who want to care for backyard hens. Nashville Grown, a nonprofit that serves area farms, is also working to build a local food system where most food is grown within a 100-mile radius.
“These types of health promotions are key to a healthy populace,” says Team Green’s Genova. “It also provides people with a great excuse to get outdoors and enjoy Nashville’s beautiful scenery.”