American Water Co.'s American Water Charitable Foundation is awarding a $150,000 grant to Chattanooga, Tennessee's Public Works Department, in support of a nature-based play area for East Lake Park. The 18.5 acre park encircles an almost two-acre spring fed pond and is the city's first, dating back to 1896. The funding will help achieve Chattanooga's Water Quality Improvements project; due to ware over time and a lack of consistent maintenance, sediment removal, infrastructure improvements, and ecological enhancements needed to be addressed.

The grant will help fund an outdoor classroom that provides an environmental education around water stewardship for local schools and groups and the construction of a nature-based playground. This project was chosen based on water components, play value, education value, proximity to the Tennessee American Water Co. service area, project parameters, use of natural play materials, and opportunities for American Water employee volunteer involvement.

“East Lake Park is a special place where communities can gather for a peaceful afternoon in the park or give nearby schools educational opportunities for its students,” says Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “We are grateful for the American Water Charitable Foundation and Tennessee American Water for providing this grant that will allow us to enhance the park’s natural beauty and amenities.”

The grant is part of the foundation’s Signature Program, Building Better Communities, administered by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The program focuses on parks, but this specific initiative concentrates on building or enhancing nature-based playgrounds and play spaces that connect and educate people on environmental practices related to water and other natural resources.

During the last four years, the Foundation has awarded 12 NRPA grants to American Water communities in California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.