Then & Now: Gallatin Parks

The city’s park system has come a long way in 60 years.

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Gallatin’s first park swimming pool.

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The Gallatin Civic Center under construction in the 1990s.

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Teens pose for a poolside photo in the 1970s.

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Miracle Park, a six-acre A.D.A. compliant recreation area, opened in 2020.

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The Garrott Aquatics Center features Gallatin's first zero-depth pool complete with a splash pad and three slides including a 57-foot speed slide.

A beautiful park-filled city like Gallatin doesn’t happen by accident. It takes vision, forethought, and cooperation. Fortunately, the City of Gallatin has all three—and the evidence is in the more than 800 acres of parks and recreation assets that the city has amassed over the past 60 years.

David Brown, Director of Parks and Recreation, has been involved for more than 50 of those years. Starting as a part-time groundskeeper in 1969, Brown worked his way up to the director’s role in 1983. Today, he oversees a staff of 31 full-time employees that can swell to as many as 180 part-time employees during the summer months. Brown has a bird’s-eye view on how the city’s recreational assets have evolved during the last half century.

According to Brown, the story starts after World War II when the city started buying land for parks. In 1947, the city opened Thompson Park, a nine-acre property on Morrison Street that is now home to the city’s popular skate park. In 1948, the city bought an eight-acre tract on Chamber Street that was eventually named Clearview Park. Nearly 25 years passed before the next property was acquired in 1972. That’s when the city purchased 60 acres that would eventually become Municipal Park. Eleven years later, in 1983, the city acquired 100 acres that was developed as Long Hollow Golf Course.

The year 1993 was a big one for Gallatin’s parks. The city purchased 35 acres on Albert Gallatin Drive for the Gallatin Civic Center, then leased 34 acres on Big Station Camp Creek Road from the Army Corps of Engineers for the creation of a soccer complex. That was also the year that the city leased 147 acres to create Lock 4 Park on the shores of Old Hickory Lake. “A few years after Lock 4 Park was added, a local bike club came in and set up bike trails,” Brown noted. “These trails have attracted national tournaments and they’re recognized as some of the best in the area.”

In 1997, the city purchased 180 acres off of Highway 31E that became Triple Creek Park, now the home of many of Gallatin’s most popular events. In 2016, the Franklin family donated 46 acres off of Big Station Camp Creek Road near the Station Camp school complex for parkland that the city supplemented with a 14-acre purchase. The 60-acre property will eventually be known as Franklin Park. “It's hidden back in there because we don't have a way to get to it yet,” said Brown, “but that will change once the roads are built. We’ll be able to develop the property then.”

In 2010, after an infusion of federal grant money, construction began on Town Creek Greenway, which now provides nearly eight miles of paved trails for walking, jogging, biking, and meandering. The last section of this greenway was completed in 2016. “You can start from the Civic Center and go all the way downtown,” Brown said.

In 2020, the city purchased the 50-acre Langley Farm on Coles Ferry Road and a four-acre plot on East Main Street. Both properties are awaiting development. “We’ll develop these new parks as we access funding,” said Brown, noting that grant money may be available to cover a portion of development costs for the Main Street property. “Private donations are always welcome.”

The city’s latest project is Gallatin Miracle Park, six acres of A.D.A. compliant recreation for those with mobility impairments, special needs, and the community as a whole. Originally set to open in 2020, Miracle Park’s opening has been pushed back to spring 2021 due to the COVID-19 situation. More than $500,000 in private donations helped bring the Miracle Park to life, with companies like Goodall Builders, Garrett Brothers, TN Properties, Memorial Foundation, Rogers Group, and All Access Coach among the major donors.

What’s ahead for Gallatin’s park system? According to Brown, a new skatepark, a lazy river at the Civic Center pool, and a new soccer complex, are on the drawing board, along with master plans for Franklin Park and Main Street Park and updates to existing park assets. More greenways are also in the works.

Brown noted that some of the amenities now offered at Gallatin’s parks began as requests from newcomers to the city. “When I started working for the parks department, no one here had ever heard of disc golf,” Brown explained. “As people moved here from other parts of the country, they started asking for it. Pickleball, a scaled down form of tennis popular in Florida, seems to be the latest on the list.”

How does the Gallatin park system of 50 years ago compare to the system today? “When I started, parks were mainly ballfields, small playgrounds, and tennis courts,” Brown added. “Since then, our playgrounds have gotten bigger, our slides have gotten taller, and our pools have gotten nicer. We have more of everything, and everything is better.”

If you’re interested in making a financial donation to support Gallatin City Parks, contact David Brown, Director of Parks and Recreation at (615) 642-1283 or david.brown@gallatin-tn.gov.