Nashville park officials say more land is needed — for both larger park projects and smaller urban ones — and they are pressing forward with a new plan that would add trails, pools and more park features throughout the city.

Nashville has acquired thousands of acres of open space in recent years, but a plan passed last year says more parks are needed, adding to the city’s existing 15,873 acres of open space that includes 185 parks and 19 greenways.

Earlier this year, the city adopted Plan to Play, a 435-page master plan that envisions 4,541 acres of new parkland to be added to Nashville’s park system through 2027. The plan calls for new greenways, 50 more miles of hiking trails, 17 picnic shelters, five outdoor swimming pools, eight dog parks and more new park amenities.

For Green Hills and Belle Meade specifically, the plan's focus on acquiring land in urban areas means establishing new parks in the area is not a priority. The I-440 Greenway, which is under construction just more than two miles north of Green Hills, will provide residents with new access to green space.

{{tncms-inline alignment="left" content="<p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">Friends of Green Hills Park:</span></strong></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">You can sign up for updates on park improvements, Green Hills Park Festival updates and volunteer opportunities at friendsofgreenhillspark.org.</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">Friends of Warner Parks:</span></strong></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">If interested in volunteering, contact Paul Fowler, the group’s volunteer coordinator, at [email protected]</span></p> <p class="p1"><strong><span class="s1">Friends of Woodmont Park:</span></strong></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">Visit friendsofwoodmontpark.com to sign up for updates, events and news. There is also a space to inquire about volunteer opportunities.</span></p>" id="2d152820-5218-4b81-a699-d7ec043e916a" style-type="info" title="Get involved with local parks" type="relcontent" width="full"}}

Despite the city not planning big projects in the area, groups like Friends of Green Hills Park and Friends of Warner Parks have projects in the pipeline, such as raising funds to restore the Allée staircase at Percy Warner Park or installing a log obstacle course to complete Green Hills Park’s natural play area.

Since the city’s last major plan in 2002, more than 30 parks and 85 miles of greenways have been added to the system. But the city says they need to add more.

For the past decade, the city has focused on acquiring large-acre natural areas in the county’s outskirts, such as Bells Bend Park, Lytle Farm and Ravenwood Park — the latter two now part of Stones River Regional Park — which altogether account for more than 1,500 acres.

{{tncms-inline alignment="left" content="<p dir="ltr"><strong>2002</strong></p> <p>• Parks: 153</p> <p dir="ltr">• Acres: 9,483</p> <p dir="ltr">• Population: 570,000</p> <p><strong>2016</strong></p> <p>• Parks: 185</p> <p dir="ltr">• Acres: 15,873</p> <p dir="ltr">• Population: 678,413</p> " id="a1059e4e-4645-4ac6-b5f1-5b0c3a500790" style-type="info" title="Metro parks’ growth" type="relcontent" width="half"}}

 The new plan says Metro Parks is not finished protecting large rural properties but over the next 10 years it should also acquire and develop small urban parks needed to ensure a high quality of life, walkability and other benefits for residents in densely populated areas.

“Downtown parks are under intense pressure,” the plan says. “With a growing population, these parks are at or are reaching maximum capacity.”

While the plan doesn’t specify areas it hopes to develop, there are a few spots on Metro’s radar, including converting Greer Stadium into a park, as well as encouraging developers to incorporate green spaces.

{{tncms-inline alignment="left" content="<p dir="ltr">• 143 playgrounds<br />• 185 parks<br />• 7 regional community centers, four nature centers and 19 neighborhood community centers<br />• 1,200+ classes per week<br />• 8,262 acres of tree canopy<br />• 19 river access points<br />• 7 dog parks<br />• 25+ miles of mountain bike trails<br />• 171 sports fields<br />• 35+ historic sites, structures and monuments<br />• 2100 bulbs planted each year</p> " id="20054fd7-09d9-452a-950a-1a4c6624d98b" style-type="info" title="By the numbers" type="relcontent" width="half"}}

So where does that leave neighborhood parks, or areas that span three-20 acres, such as Green Hills Park, Woodmont Park and other nearby green spaces removed from downtown?

These parks often have non-profit “friends” organizations that operate as a private-public partnership with Metro to make park improvements a reality. The groups, like Friends of Green Hills Park, host festivals and other annual events benefiting their respective parks.

“Metro put in a walking path 10 years earlier when I was pregnant with twins, and I was so excited because I’d be able to push the stroller,” said Friends of Green Hills Park President Lora Barkenbus Fox at a presentation about the park’s upcoming festival. “But then they took out the water fountain … I realized this was really bothering me.”

That’s why in 2015, Fox, along with treasurer Patrick Bradley, launched the non-profit group to care for the 12-acre park, situated at 1200 Lone Oak Rd next to John Trotwood Moore Middle School. The group also aims to engage the community and support safe connections.

Three years later, the park has a new water fountain, a Little Free Library donated by Parnassus Books, grassy beams that provide a natural play area, along with a host of other desired features included in its master plan.

But small neighborhood parks are not the only spaces with groups ready to advocate for improvements. Friends of Warner Parks is a non-profit group dedicated to preserving and protecting Percy and Edwin Warner Parks, Nashville’s largest natural area park that sees around 1 million visitors annually.

{{tncms-inline alignment="left" content="<p dir="ltr">Plan-to-Play aims to add 4,500 acres in local parks</p> <p>Here’s the breakdown:</p> <p>• Pocket Parks (size - less than 3 acres) (incl. school playgrounds) - 37 acres</p> <p dir="ltr"><span>• Neighborhood Parks (3-20 acres) - 226 acres</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>• Community Parks (20-100 acres) - 379 acres</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>• Regional Parks (100+ acres) - 3,187 acres</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>• Signature Parks - 141 acres</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>• Special Use Park - 440 ares</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>• Greenway corridors - 130 acres</span></p> " id="d74c4422-aa30-4a8a-8500-6882bae3d5b2" style-type="info" title="Between now and 2026" type="relcontent" width="full"}}

“[Friends of Warner Parks] partners with Metro Parks on most of our projects, so even though it's a private-public partnership, it's a really strong one,” said Amy Albright, event manager for the group. “The Parks budget isn't as always as strong as they would like for it to be, so it's great to be able to step in and help with that.”

Albright coordinates the group’s Full Moon Pickin’ Parties, Hummingbird Happy Hour and Sunday in the Park, annual events that have helped draw in more than $30 million for park preservation efforts over the last 30 years.

“We offer many types of programs and try to reach out to many demographics,” she continued. “It’s encouraging to see, year after year, the community’s generosity and willingness to help preserve the park.”