Riding the long, shady track through the green wood is a wonderful way to begin a summer day. My mare, a Missouri Fox Trotter named Julie, makes her way quietly as she keeps pace with the big gelding ahead of her. The gentle rise and fall of the trail, bird song and a light breeze cause me to wonder how I could be within the city limits of Chattanooga? When did this happen? Well, it took four years of planning, grant writing and over 400 hours of labor—producing a thing of beauty.
“It has everything you need for a pleasant and safe riding experience,” says Joanne Mitchell. She assessed the trail recently, riding its full 17-mile length with a loop at the end. “It has nice width, adequate site lines, both coming and going, good footing and shade for most of the ride.” Mitchell and her husband Bobby represent the Southern Appalachian Back Country Horseman Association that built the trail. “The trail is equipped with mile markers and it takes about five hours to complete. If you only want to ride for two hours, just ride in for one hour, turn around and come back.”
At the trailhead, there are restrooms and an extensive parking space for trailers. Horse trail posts are positioned at ½ mile increments and are numbered. There is a water trough about half way through the ride and hitching posts are being added as needed.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger acknowledged the long hours of work and cooperation of dozens of individuals at the June 25th grand opening of the trail. Mayor Andy Burke was also on hand for the event, remarking that the Trail was good for Chattanooga. Trail planning and preparation began in 2014.
“Interest in the horse trail has been very high,” says Director of Parks & Recreation Tom Lamb. “Our public input meetings were packed.” In fact, opening day saw an impressive turnout of roughly 25 trailers with 2-4 horses each.
This portion of the ℹ Enterprise South Nature Park (ESNP) was set aside for riding trails when the park was first built. The infrastructure costs were underwritten by grants from the city and county governments that were matched by the State of Tennessee. Deborah Bishop, Hamilton County financial manager was responsible for writing those grants. “Hamilton County received a grant from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in the amount of $230,000.00 along with $230,000 in matching funds split between the county and the city,” says Bishop. The trail itself was built by the Southern Appalachian Backcountry Horsemen Association and its volunteers.
Local rider Gina Hatler came out to ride. She doggedly supported the plan for the trail and didn’t let up until it became a reality. Park Superintendent Allison Harr says, “We’re so glad to finally be able open the trail to riders.”
The Summit Knobs Trail at 1766 Ferdinand Pieche Way is also available to hikers and dogs on leash. No bicycles or all-terrain vehicles are allowed and the usual park rules apply—no intoxicants of any kind, no weapons or open fires. Visitors should check the website for daily-posted park hours that fluctuate seasonally.
The main entrance to Enterprise South Nature Park is at 190 Still Hollow Road. It offers miles of walking paths, bicycle routes, a mulched kids’ track and off-road biking trails. There are areas for picnics, a small lake and wildlife viewing platforms within ESNP.