New Open Space Plan For Nashville

April 14, 2011

Nashville skyline

Nashville skyline. Photo: Kaldari/Wikimedia

Mayor, Land Trust Invest In Green Infrastructure

Nashville, TN. — Today, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the Land Trust for Tennessee released the region’s first comprehensive open space plan, “Nashville: Naturally,” which The Conservation Fund designed. For the first time, this conservation plan maps every inch of protected open space in Davidson County—and charts a clear vision for how to protect and connect this green infrastructure so that “Music City” can remain a southern superstar.

“The quality of life in Nashville is intrinsically bound to its history and beauty,” says Mayor Dean in the plan document. “Rolling hills, striking river bluff views, and serene forests are essential to the character of our city, including the country music for which Nashville is known. That character is why people come to Nashville, stay in Nashville, and return to Nashville. That is why it is so important for us to plan and invest smartly to make sure that character is never lost as Nashville continues to thrive and grow.”

Like many American cities, fast-growing Nashville needs green strategy. Obesity-related conditions cost area residents an estimated $255 million annually. There are too few places for people to easily access the outdoors, with only about 3% of Davidson County in Metro parkland today, even as the area population grew by 10% over the last decade. And a devastating 2010 flood—killing 10 and costing roughly $2 billion—has underscored the need to better protect floodplains and buffer waterways that feed the mighty Cumberland River.

“With so much natural beauty, a vibrant tourism economy and a creative spirit, Nashville has what it takes to maximize its green infrastructure,” says Will Allen, director of strategic conservation at the Fund. “Like so many of our urban areas, the region must now get strategic about what land to protect, what to develop and how to encourage the community to rediscover its beautiful backyard”.

The new open space plan helps decision makers do that by providing a clear vision to reach shared goals, including: improving and protecting the Cumberland River system, which provides all of the county’s drinking water; building up the sustainable local food supply through urban and rural farming; improving public health by providing more and easier places for people to bike, walk and play, and protecting scenic and historic places from disappearing to development.

“Places with abundant conserved green spaces help people connect with each other and with nature,” remarks Jeanie Nelson, executive director of The Land Trust for Tennessee, in the plan. “A plan as bold as this one requires the private community to work in unison with the government to achieve the vision.”

Over the past 20 years, the Fund and its partners have protected more than 150,000 acres across Tennessee, from recreation destinations like Rocky Fork and Fiery Gizzard to historic properties such as Ravenswood Farm, in Brentwood. The new plan builds on the state’s commitment to land conservation with a strategic vision for future land use decisions in and around the capitol. The impetus for the plan emerged in 2009, as Mayor Dean stated an ambitious goal to make Nashville the greenest city in the southeast. At that time, the metro government and the land trust teamed up to oversee and implement the area’s first comprehensive open space plan, ultimately tapping the Fund to head this strategic conservation work.

To create the plan, the Fund led a team that inventoried and evaluated the region’s natural areas, incorporating public input and technical analysis to develop an implementable vision. The plan’s 27 recommendations range from the simple (put signs on trails so people know they exist) to the ambitious (double the tree canopy downtown over 10 years). It calls for connecting open space in the four corners of Davidson County through a network of protected lands at key points along the Cumberland River, including a greener downtown.

Nashville is on the forefront of a national trend in urban areas, where cash-strapped government leaders can’t afford haphazard conservation any longer and are actively seeking more cost-effective conservation strategy. New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia are a few of the major cities shifting their strategies to find cheap green infrastructure solutions like buying waterfront land to soak up water during storms, encouraging green roofs and rain gardens, planting trees and trying to create more access for people to enjoy the outdoors.

The Fund has equipped regional leaders to adopt these and similar strategies in Milwaukee, Indiana and the Chesapeake Bay. Now, the Fund is launching a new plan for greater Houston. In each case, Allen and his team provide the strategy, technical tools and community outreach to create conservation solutions that make economic sense. “With thousands of acres a day lost to development, we don’t have time for plans that grow dusty on shelves,” Allen says. “We need to make the smart decisions now.”


About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.


  • Open Space Plan For Nashville

    Nashville skyline

    Like many American cities, fast-growing Nashville needs green strategy. Obesity-related conditions cost area residents an estimated $255 million annually. There are too few places for people to easily access the outdoors, with only about 3% of Davidson County in metro… Read More