More public green space is coming to Middle Tennessee, thanks to a long-awaited purchase of farmland in Murfreesboro.
The city has been trying for years to buy the 70-acre Oakwood Farm along the southern edge of Barfield Crescent Park. After jumping through multiple hoops to meet strict conservation criteria, both state and federal officials have given their blessing.
Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Director Angela Jackson says the expansion is needed as more people move to the city.
“It is a wonderful space already. But Murfreesboro has grown a lot,” she says. “And so the capacity of the park, just in order to have that natural access in what is becoming a larger city, is very important.”
Jackson says the additional space won’t have athletic fields or pools. Rather, it will be a natural area with multiple hiking trails, which she hopes will be ready for the public within the next year.
Since the start of the pandemic, people have been spending more time outside, where the coronavirus is much less likely to spread. Jackson says the park expansion comes at just the right time, as people continue to discover a newfound appreciation for the outdoors.
“We’ve seen more and more people understand and appreciate what role nature plays in your health and in your mental health — and in the importance of preserving public lands,” she says.
Some residents hoped for more park space in a neighborhood in the western part of the city, called Blackman Park, where officials have considered building an office park. More than 3,000 people signed a petition against that plan and hundreds have joined a Facebook group called SAVE BLACKMAN PARK, which was created in 2018 to advocate for more green space in the area.
The petition urges officials to preserve the city-owned land on the west side, rather than built it up. It also calls for other amenities in the area, like a post office, library or community center.
“As the city grows the need for green space along with civic services are needed on the portion of the city west of Interstate 24,” the petitioners write. “What was once farm land for miles has been mostly developed, causing wildlife and environmental damage.”
But Jackson says that area didn’t meet the specific requirements of the federal program the city is using for the Barfield Crescent Park expansion. Instead, she says her department plans to develop another park on the west side of town.
“We’ve recognized that, in the Blackman area, obviously, we need additional park space, and that’s something that we’re working toward as a part of our park system as a whole,” Jackson says. “This particular project was not a fit for that because of the strict criteria.”