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Tim Laramore ’99 Leads Conservation Effort

Tim Laramore ’99 Leads Conservation Effort

In his leadership position as the volunteer executive director for the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy (NCCC), English instructor and Walkabout leader Tim Laramore ’99 was taking a closer look at various pieces of land when a thought occurred to him.

“There was this 117-acre property on the side of Signal Mountain. As I was walking around, I saw old roadbeds and boulders, and I thought I should get some other people out to see it,” he recalls.

Laramore invited NCCC board members, people from the climbing community, and the Southeast regional director Land Trust for Tennessee (LTT), and things picked up from there.  “We thought if we got mountain bikers and climbers involved, then this could potentially be a really cool park.”

Seven years later, a grand opening for the 200-acre Walden’s Ridge Park took place on Sept. 30.  Accessed just off the W-Road winding up Signal Mountain, the park features world class mountain bike trails and bouldering locations, along with trails for runners and hikers and scenic views of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River Valley.  Joining Laramore at the grand opening were fellow alumni Mayor Tim Kelly ’85, along with Bruz Clark ’77, president and CEO of the Lyndhurst Foundation and Riverview Foundation.

Laramore said Chattanooga’s topography makes it a premier outdoor location but it’s the drive of organizations willing to come together for a common cause that is the differentiator when compared to other communities.   “We have the cliffs, the creeks, the crags, and the slopes and so many places with trailheads,” he said. “But we are also somewhat saturated with conservation-minded organizations. That is what puts us on the map.”

Although collaborative in nature, seeing the park come to fruition was a long process with challenges at every turn.  “I had no idea what it took to build a park,” admits Laramore.  “We ran up against a continuous series of obstacles and setbacks and then figured out how to overcome them.  One of the gratifying moments is certainly when I went out there at one point and was feeling like I was pushing a stone up a hill to get it all done.  And then I saw the trail builders on site and the machines pulling together and I realized that it was actually going to happen.”

Throughout the process Laramore says he learned how to how to get through the labyrinth of survey requirements for certain grants.  He became well-versed in local politics and how to move a number of initiatives through the county commission for approval.   An avid outdoors person in his own right, he still discovered there was a lot to learn about trail building and “what it takes to build quality trail so it will be the same in ten years as it is today.”

“No one in the project had any experience in doing this, and there were plenty of times we were wondering if was going to come to fruition,” he adds.  “The collaboration was successful just because most of the people who do these activities have a natural determination. Climbers, mountain bikers, hikers and kayakers don’t necessarily want the easy thing, so it’s the nature of their passions.  I think we had people who were not daunted by setbacks and challenges – they are challenged by them.  That is what made it happen.”