Monday, June 20, 2011

Fort Negley: A Review

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 6:35 AM

In Short:

Location: Between Greer Stadium and the Science Center
Size of Park: Large
Crowds: Light
Approximate Age of Patrons: From Grandma to Grandkid
Topics of Conversation: "Can I pee here? What about here?"
Stray Dogs Seen: None
Types of Vehicles in Parking Lots: Out-of-towners
Perceived Safety: High
Number of Gunshots Heard: None
Dog Friendliness: Fine
Number of pitbulls sighted: None
Accessibility: Surprisingly nice
Incorporation of Local History: Excellent
Recommended Patrons: Civil War buffs, fans of stone buildings

Fort Negley is one of the niftiest parks in town. It's not just the WPA reproduction of a Civil War fort, though that is, indeed, really nifty. It's that you can tell the whole park is set up to teach you something about that place and how it sits in relationship to Nashville. Just about the only other parks I can think of in town that seem intended for you to constantly consider how the park is situated in the city is Bicentennial Park (the city park which I mistakenly thought was just the greenway) and Lock One park. These parks, all three, encourage you to look out into the surrounding cityscape and consider the history of the place.

So with every step around Fort Negley, you get different views at every time of year (especially winter), from downtown to the lights of the new Belmont ball fields out toward Brentwood and over towards the cemetery.

The interpretive signage is splendid. All along the walkways, you'll find signs that tell you what you're seeing and why.

And then, up at the top ... I know we've talked about this before, but whenever I go to one of these Civil War sites, I think of my uncle who was a history buff. Due to the ravages of polio, he was confined to a motorized scooter for long walks. Often, if there was something out on a battlefield he couldn't get to, he'd send one of us kids to go look and shout back what we were seeing. And we all knew it wasn't good enough — that he wanted to be out there seeing for himself, taking it in first-hand.

So the way they have the top of Fort Negley set up makes me a little teary-eyed. Even history buffs confined to motorized wheelchairs can use the wide wooden walkways to get right up to the rock walls in order to examine them, to get up above the walls to look out over the city, and to see the spots talked about on the signs for themselves. Yes, the top of the hill is a little rough going, because it's not paved. But it's much more accessible than you'd think a crumbling ruin would be.

The only drawback to the park is that, strangely enough, the visitors' center isn't open on Sunday. So if you live in town and you have a 9-5 job, there's only one day you can visit the center. And that means there aren't open bathrooms at a huge city park on a major visiting day.

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