Vidalians checking out Chattanooga’s Tennessee Riverwalk

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 3, 2003

VIDALIA &045; Last month, the Vidalia Board of Aldermen awarded a bid for the third or so-called &uot;last&uot; phase of construction on the riverfront development.

But some people think the riverfront’s potential has barely been tapped and don’t want to see the project end.

Vidalia Chamber of Commerce Vice President Gina Buckley was attending a business conference in September in Chattanooga, Tenn., when she was shocked by a spark of inspiration.

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Right outside her hotel door was the Tennessee Riverwalk, Chattanooga’s successful downtown revitalization project initiated in the 1980s.

The development comprises restaurants, art galleries, a pedestrian bridge and acres of parks, but what most intrigued Buckley were the Creative Discoveries Children’s Museum and the Tennessee Aquarium.

&uot;I thought, ‘This looks like something we could do in Vidalia,’&uot; she said. &uot;I’ve always thought we could do something different.&uot;

Buckley said the lack of children’s activities in Natchez is something that needs to be addressed. Antebellum mansions are beautiful to look at, but vacationing families usually go to spots that have less stuffy attractions. &uot;All I’ve heard is, ‘There’s nothing

for children to do in (the Miss-Lou) area.’&uot;

An aquarium and children’s museum could fill that need, Buckley said, with the added benefit of providing new resources for non-tourist children.

&uot;It could be a tremendous teaching tool,&uot; she said.

On Tuesday, Buckley and a group of 15 local luminaries, including Vidalia and Ferriday Mayors Hyram Copeland and Glen McGlothin, Concordia Economic Development Director Teresa Dennis and members of the Riverfront Development Board, will head north to Chattanooga for a few days to get a closer look at what has worked to bring that city back to life.

&uot;We all benefit from seeing what other people have done,&uot; Buckley said.

In addition to touring the Riverwalk, the group will meet with Chattanooga Economic Development Authority Director Ken Hayes and Urban Design Committee Chairman Jim Bowen.

While Chattanooga, with more than 155,000 people, is far larger and less isolated &045; the city is linked to the outside world by three interstates &045; than Vidalia, Buckley said there are similarities between the two communities.

&uot;Chattanooga is a bigger city,&uot; she said, &uot;but it’s still a hometown city.&uot;

Chattanooga has had its share of economic hardship, too. &uot;It was really a very tired and rundown area,&uot; Buckley said, remembering it from her childhood in Tennessee.

And to those who think that the Miss-Lou is too small for such ambitious plans, that Vidalia’s riverfront, which will cost upwards of $30 million by the time Phase III is over and have an amphitheatre, 102-room hotel, RV park, walking trail, welcome center, boat launch, restaurant and outpatient clinic, Buckley said, &uot;We’ve got to dream big.&uot;