Renaissance Park is appropriately named. The riverfront on this side of the river was lined with large manufacturing facilities. I am having trouble remembering what exactly was where Renaissance is–I guess I need to stop and read the signs in the park again.
Whatever was on the 20+ acres that now make up the park, it left a mess.
Rather than haul the mess off and dump it somewhere where it could be someone else’s mess, the people who designed the park (which is apparently this firm, who has posted some cool aerial photos) created a way to “store” the waste that supposedly prevents toxic waste from reaching the Tennessee River. According to the signs in the park (which, yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve read), the mounds we regularly refer to as “the Sledding hill” and “the Ramp,” were created as part of the program to encapsulate and stabilize the industrial waste.
I always find myself particularly tickled when I think about the kids sledding down a hill that’s simultaneously protecting them from the pollutants it houses inside. I just hope we don’t learn sometime down the road that it’s having ill-effects on anyone. I have to imagine the ill-effects are less than if the pollutants were continuing to leach into the Tennessee River.
In any case, the thought of an industrial dumping ground being turned into park that’s not only lovely, but also effective at removing pollutants from the water that flows through the property is pretty inspiring. It truly is a renaissance.
The hill we call “the Ramp” is particularly clever innovation. It’s landscaped as a cleanly angled plain running up the front, planted in grass and kept mowed short. It’s one of those things that you see for the first time and wonder what on earth it’s for. Then, you walk by when there’s an exercise class out on it and you realize someone really did have vision.
The popularity of outdoor fitness classes in the park is amazing. There is not one thing that appears to have been purpose-built for fitness classes, yet the giant steps down to the wetland, the Sledding Hill, the Ramp, and even the concrete bases of park benches all provide great equipment for the most ambitious exercisers.
But it’s the other side of the Ramp that caught my focus on this day. Or, the other 3 sides. The Ramp is only a ramp on one end. The rest of the hill is long and rounded and covered in native flowers and grasses. Many of the plants produce bird seed, making the hill a favorite for many seed eaters like Goldfinches and House Finches. It’s also a favorite for a large collection of voles who like to torment dogs passing by.
Right now, the Ramp’s backside has burst into blooms. Looking up its slopes at the flowers backlit by the evening sun makes me think every spring is its own renaissance.