Newly reopened as a BlueCross Healthy Place, St. Elmo Park has undergone a $750,000 redesign—complete with accessible play areas for children of varying ages, as well as a community lawn, swing set, challenge course, and fitness station. Made possible by a grant from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, work began on the project in late 2020, and the city of Chattanooga celebrated the park’s reopening March 10.
“Our outdoor resources are Chattanooga’s greatest competitive advantage, and we are grateful to partners like the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation for the key role they play in opening up access to these resources,” Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said in an email statement. “Recreation bridges physical and mental health gaps in our community, and our efforts to build connectivity among our parks, neighborhoods and the river will pay off in a happier, healthier Chattanooga.”
The grant was one of 10 the BlueCross Foundation awarded to projects throughout the state in 2020—for a total of $7.5 million to celebrate the company’s 75 years of service to the state’s residents. Along with its build partner, Chattanooga-based PlayCore, the Foundation has completed 15 projects in the state, including the Highland Park Healthy Place, a $5 million project that opened in May 2021.
Heather Osteen, who has lived in St. Elmo for 16 years, said the redesign has breathed “new life” into the park.
“St. Elmo is chock full of young families who are active and want to engage with their neighbors, and this space gives us all—even the not-so-young families—an incredible opportunity to do so,” Osteen said, adding that the fitness station is an especially “phenomenal bonus.”
Equipment at the fitness station includes a bench dip station, accessible hand cycle station, balance board station, captain’s chair, push-up bars and bench.
Begun in 2018, the BlueCross Healthy Place program provides free and inclusive spaces for neighbors to gather and be active. To date, the Foundation has invested $31.7 million in community spaces across Tennessee.
St. Elmo resident Pate Russell, who owns the Woodshop Listening Room—located just six blocks from the park, said he has sensed an increase in community pride since the reopening and hopes this and future changes in the neighborhood continue to align with St. Elmo’s unique charm.
“The neighborhood has changed and grown into a very desirable place for raising a family, [and] we have to hold onto the essence that drew people here in the first place,” he said. “I think the park’s redesign incorporates an aesthetic that balances well with the quaint architecture and outdoor culture the city promotes.”
The BlueCross Healthy Place at St. Elmo Park is located at 4909 St. Elmo Ave.