Parish leaders: ‘Can-do’ attitude helped Chattanooga

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 13, 2003

VIDALIA &045; After spending a few days on the Tennessee Riverwalk in Chattanooga, Tenn., a group of local business and government leaders is back in town with a new batch of big ideas.

Mayor Hyram Copeland, a member of the traveling contingent, said Chattanooga’s successful revitalization project holds some valuable lessons for Vidalia’s own riverfront.

&uot;We learned some good ideas about what they’re doing up there on the riverfront,&uot; Copeland said.

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Faced with a crumbling downtown and a moribund economy, Chattanooga jumped into its riverfront development in the 1980s.

It’s now packed with restaurants, hotels, art galleries, acres of parks, a pedestrian bridge, an aquarium and a children’s museum.

While Chattanooga is much larger and less geographically isolated &045; its population is well past 150,000 people, and three interstates link it to the outside world &045; than Vidalia, Copeland said the differences between the two cities are not as great as they might seem.

&uot;For me, they’re basically the same type of people we have here in Vidalia,&uot; he said.

Chattanooga had a problem, and its leaders were determined to fix it. In the same way, Vidalia has invested in the riverfront and industrial park to make the area more attractive to industry and families and to offer more amenities to the natives.

‘What they’ve done is get their town revitalized by working on a few projects,&uot; Copeland said. &uot;We can do that here.&uot;

Copeland said he was particularly impressed by the Tennessee Riverwalk’s Creative Discoveries Museum and the Tennessee Aquarium, a freshwater aquarium with flora and fauna from the world’s rivers. But what really stuck with him, he said, was the quality of the people who had brought the project into being.

&uot;They had the can-do attitude,&uot; Copeland said.

The Chattanooga group plans to meet with the Riverfront Development Board within the next few weeks to discuss potential projects for the Vidalia riverfront.

Copeland said he is optimistic about borrowing some ideas from Chattanooga.

&uot;It looks like we can do it.&uot;