Groundbreaking Held for New Victims Memorial Park on Chattanooga Riverwalk

Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp and Commissioner Greg Beck (red tie and holding shovel) were joined by other Chattanooga leaders to break ground on April 29, for the all-new Victims Memorial Park on the scenic Chattanooga Riverwalk.

Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp and Commissioner Greg Beck held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, April 29 at 11 a.m. for the all-new Victims Memorial Park on the scenic Chattanooga Riverwalk.

The park will be situated at the Lost Mound Drive entrance, 3700 Amnicola Highway. The vision, unveiled by Hamilton County last year, is to establish a dedicated space for remembering and honoring victims of violent crime.

“Too often life is cut short from senseless acts of violence, leaving families heartbroken and grieving,” said Mayor Wamp. “Setting aside a space for these families to mourn, is a small but meaningful gesture to show we acknowledge their pain. My friend and colleague, Commissioner Greg Beck, has been the champion of this project, and I am honored to continue our partnership to find ways to offer support to these families through our county’s parks.”

Commissioner Beck said, “We think that this is something that lets people know that we share in their grief.”

Joining Mayor Wamp and Commissioner Beck at the ceremony were Matt Folz, director of Hamilton County Parks and Recreation, and Shannon Westmoreland, representing Mothers of Murdered Sons (MOMS).

Commissioner Beck was approached by MOMS to create a permanent memorial, including an annual ceremony, to honor the over 600 individuals who have lost their lives to gun violence, knife attacks and vehicular homicide in Hamilton County.

“Grief, tears, heartache,” said Westmoreland, whose grandson Deric Poole was tragically killed by gun violence at the age of 31. “It’s a universal experience.”

Westmoreland is a co-founder of the local MOMS chapter and has been a driving force behind the memorial’s creation. When her grandson was murdered, she felt isolated in her grief, yearning for a community that could understand her pain.

“We needed a place to come together and celebrate the lives of our children, our loved ones,” she said. “That’s why we knew this memorial was necessary.”

The violent crime rate in Hamilton County is 56.8 per 100,000 residents (based on data from Jan. 1 – Nov. 30, 2023). This translates to approximately 1 in 1,778 residents experiencing a violent crime.

Additionally, an estimated 25-30 people lose their lives to violent crimes in Hamilton County each year, with over 600 such deaths occurring since 1977.

It’s important to note that crime rates vary depending on the neighborhood. Your chance of being a victim of violent crime in Hamilton County may be as high as 1 in 93 in some of the southwest neighborhoods, or as low as 1 in 422 in the northwest part of the county.