My memories of Fort Negley begin in high school: I distinctly remember stroking the back of a giant (caged!) pigeon on the roof of the Cumberland Science Museum while staring at the brambly ruins of what I would later know was the Fort. And St. Cloud Hill, with its amazing panoramic views of Nashville, served as a prime firework-watching location throughout high school and college. But I didn’t know Fort Negley intimately until December 2004, when my partner and I bought our home, just one week after Fort Negley Park reopened to the public.
We were quick to embrace the Park as our neighborhood park, and for more than a decade, it has been a daily part of my life. It was on leisurely walks along the ring road and boardwalks that I first learned about Fort Negley and St. Cloud Hill’s rich history. I come to the hill in the pursuit of solace; 140 years ago, many more came to the Fort in search of their freedom.
Its ability to be a place for recreation, contemplation, and community is what makes Fort Negley Park so special. The Park is a place where I can walk my dog, see the sun set, talk to someone whose ancestors built the Fort, read on a blanket, talk to Abraham Lincoln, and even watch sheep peacefully graze as I unwind from a long day at work. And I’m not alone -- I see my neighbors from near and far doing all that and more every day.
Nevertheless, time has not been kind to the Park. When it reopened in 2004, it was only a fraction of the original 1928 land purchase, having been divided up to make way for Greer Stadium. With the stadium vacant, we have the rare opportunity now to correct course on past decisions. We can restore the 21 acres that were previously occupied by Greer Stadium to their original intent – to be part of Fort Negley Park. Our city’s leaders did not even give us that option when they asked for “community input” as they developed their Request for Qualifications. We were not given the opportunity to speak up then, and so today we must speak up for history, for public parks, and for community.
As Nashville grows, there is much to gain. However, if we’re not careful, we stand to lose much, much more. Won’t you join me in speaking up for Fort Negley Park to our Mayor, Metro Council and Parks Board?