But, like many fast-growing American cities, Nashville needed a green strategy. The area saw its population jump by 10 percent in just a decade, while only 3 percent of Davidson County was devoted to parkland. Obesity-related conditions cost area residents an estimated $255 million annually. There were too few places for people to easily access the outdoors. And a devastating 2010 flood—killing 10 and costing roughly $2 billion—underscored the need to better protect floodplains and buffer waterways that feed the mighty Cumberland River.



Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the Land Trust for Tennessee chose us to lead a team to develop an open space plan for Davidson County based on our national expertise in green infrastructure planning. Our goal was to develop the most progressive open space protection strategy in the Southeast U.S. The result is Nashville: Naturally, the first conservation plan that maps every inch of protected open space in Davidson County—and charts a clear vision for how to protect and connect this green infrastructure.

To create the plan, we led a team that included ACP Visioning+Planning, Hawkins Partners, Inc. and Clarion Associates. Together, we inventoried and evaluated the region’s natural areas and engaged the public to develop a vision that includes:

  • Improving the Cumberland River system, source of the county’s drinking water;
  • Building up the sustainable local food supply through urban and rural farming;
  • Improving public health by making it easier for people to bike, walk and play, and
  • Protecting scenic and historic places from disappearing to development.


The plan’s 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.


“Places with abundant conserved green spaces help people to connect with each other and with nature.A plan as bold as this one requires the private community to work in unison with the government to achieve the vision. By private community I mean conservation groups, philanthropic organizations, developers, business owners, residents and anyone who enjoys the natural places that make Nashville special.”

— Jeanie Nelson, Executive Director, The Land Trust for Tennessee