NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After a 2020 tornado ripped through Lockeland Springs Park in East Nashville and COVID pushed more neighbors outdoors, community support grew for the park, which led to a local painters group painting scenes from the park to raise preservation funds.
Those air pieces are for sale at the Shelby Park Nature Center April 7-10 at the Speaking for the Trees and Lockeland Springs Park art show.
"Tornadoes tend to bring to people's attention, how fragile this green space is and what it is to the neighborhood. So through the efforts to clean up from the tornado and people were dealing with the damage to homes, the whole neighborhood was sort of in that rebuilding mode. And they pulled together around the park as well," explained Judson Newbern, artist and Chestnut Group president.
The Chestnut Group has dozens of local members who paint nature for a cause.
"We put on a show, we raise funds and we bring awareness to what's going on. And sometimes, you know, we have access to actually places that the public doesn't even know about," said five-year member and painter Donna Brumbergs.
The group heard how Lockeland Springs Park lost dozens of trees to the 2020 tornado and decided to help the park raise funds to plant new trees and continue maintaining the park.
Lockeland Springs Park has years of history dating back a whole century.
"It originally had a spring mineral water. [In the] early 1900s, won best water [at the] St. Louis exposition and had a lot of support in the past," explained Newbern.
During COVID when the park was especially busy, neighbors realized part of the green space they had taken for granted as part of the park was at risk of being sold to a developer.
"What came to people's attention is that an adjoining piece of land with a green space that connects into the park but actually not owned by the park, it was in fact part of a connecting piece of property on a street one over. And it was on the market," recounted Newbern. "So, the opportunity to try to keep it green started being discussed and the fact that developers could buy it and that it was such a fragile ecosystem needed to really be preserved. So the neighbors got busy raising money."
In the fall of 2021, the park's official expansion was secured when the Friends of Lockeland Springs helped buy the land.
"Half the money was raised [by the neighbors] and the city, Metro, agreed to match the other half. So that's how the whole thing came into place," explained Newbern. "And the neighbors can now focus on organizing the 'friends group' to operate the new piece of green space and the existing part that will all be interconnected."
With more land to maintain and a new group tasked with maintaining the space, Friends of Lockland Springs, help was needed to start restoring the park.
The National Tree Conservation Corps helped plant 270 "big trees" and about 1,000 saplings throughout the green space.
"We took the lemons that the tornado gave us, which was a lot, and we turn in at least in this parcel of land, we turned that into lemonade because it was an opportunity to get control back. It was an opportunity to get control over this land again and take control back from the invasive species that were just overcrowding everything and then put in the stuff that will boost the ecology. There's probably two dozen different types of birds in this park right now. And that's because of the land resetting and the habitat is being restored," explained National Tree Conservation Corps Chair Jim Gregory.
Brumbergs said she decided to be a part of the Lockeland Springs Park Chestnut Group painting project for the art show in part because she saw the beauty in the green space.
"This beautiful, rare, you know, jewel of a plot of land that has so much history. There's so much history of what happened here. How can we, you know, how can we take that away? And let's just try to make it even better, you know, for the kids. There are so many kids in this neighborhood," she said.
Brumbergs painted at least five canvas paintings for the art show benefit set for Thursday through Sunday choosing a different spot in the park for each one.
"I hope these paintings connect with the neighbors and I think, I think they will," she said with a smile. "Every one of us has a different take on it. So we'll, you know, we'll have somebody painting a watercolor and it looks completely different, but it's just such a great place to find just about anything you're looking for."
Newbern said a "combination of the COVID tornado and people knowing–motivated to preserve some green space that was on the market. All came together and brought people together in a way that was not expected."
He said the perfect storm of events allowed for Lockeland Springs Park to have new life breathed into it and he hopes other neighborhoods will take the steps to preserve their own spaces.
"People paint what they value," explained Newbern. "All of the paintings have been done with the goal of preserving and elevating in people's mind. How important it is to respect the green space and don't assume that it will just be here. Neighbors can, by working together and being creative with nonprofits with ingenuity, can save green space. And can turn a goal into reality."