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Land, Tourism, Industry, and a Delicate Balance: A Conversation With One Wildwood Resident

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In the process of joining the ranks of many other short-term rental owners, Wildwood resident Patrick Lindsay began contemplating the delicate balance between inviting people into this place we call home while also preserving the natural beauty and peaceful environment. His venture connects to a web of complex topics, such as land sales, local economy, tourism, industry, growth, change, preservation, and community.

Photo by Lydia Berglar – Patrick Lindsay poses in front of his recently completed vacation rental, hidden in a serene portion of Wildwood. The exterior logs are reclaimed from old barns, while the back porch railing is made from old fence posts.

Lindsay recently finished building a cozy, rustic rental cabin on the Pope Creek Road property where he grew up. His family’s land is called Creek Road Farm, and with hills, trees, fields, a big red barn, and Lookout Creek, the property is truly picturesque.

He said, “I’ve been coming to this piece of land for almost 50 years. I’ve lived in downtown Boston and Atlanta which are 100% different from here. In the city, whatever you want, it’s there. When I was younger, the city was where I wanted to be, but as I’ve gotten older, this seems much more relaxing.”

Regarding the recent history of this land, Lindsay explained that his parents along with their friend, Bill Sudderth, purchased Creek Road Farm in the 1970s from Harold Cash, a sculptor who built the barn and housed his studio there. They split the 100 acres 60/40; the Lindsays took over 60 acres while Sudderth kept 40 acres and the original white farmhouse on the west side of Pope Creek Road.

The family then built a house at the top of the hill, beyond the red barn. Lindsay said, “We moved into that house in 1980 when I was five.” Beyond the hill, Lookout Creek runs along the eastern side of the property. 

In Lindsay’s words, “What I love about this place is the total serenity. All you hear are birds. There are turtles, deer, armadillos, and all kinds of animals. Sometimes the pig wanders up here to the cabin. It’s just the best thing ever.”

Since her husband’s death in 2000, Greta Lindsay (Patrick’s mother) has continued to care for the property. Lindsay said, “My mom has always taken good care of the land, but it was getting expensive. She was always open to doing something that could generate some money from this property. In the past, we’ve had cows, but they were kind of side projects.”

Lindsay built his first career in advertising for over 20 years. He explained, “I wrote TV commercials for a multinational conglomerate. I loved it until I hated it. I wanted to make funny TV commercials. It was like making mini-movies.”

However, as social media took over the advertising world and creativity gave way to audience’s sensitivities, budgets for commercials dwindled and Lindsay found he didn’t enjoy his work anymore. “There was no creativity, no edge to anything, no tension. I got sick of it.”

He decided he needed a change, so he began building the cabin in April 2022 and completed it this June.

Photo by Lydia Berglar – With two beds in the loft and a queen on the bottom floor, the cabin sleeps four people.

He hired a builder in McMinnville, Tenn who owns a warehouse of logs reclaimed from old barns to build the main structure. Lindsay said, “I believe these logs are from a 200-year-old barn in McMinnville. You can still see the hatchet marks in them. He built the structure and porches and had someone else put the roof on.”

Lindsay reused old wood and materials wherever possible in the cabin. “The trim wood came from the Bice’s venue here in Wildwood when they took old flooring out. I found this old front door in Chattanooga, and the closet door was sitting in our barn. Everything else is from local mills. This painted cupboard was in an old friend’s garage, so I added the sink for the bathroom vanity. The back porch is old fence posts that were sitting down in the barn. Since I have no real construction skills, the great thing about a cabin being rustic is it’s very forgiving.”

When working on the cabin, Lindsay didn’t have to rely on a phone book or internet search. Rather, “it was all through people I knew, friends of friends and such. The guy who did all the backhoe work, he was digging a ditch around the corner and I rolled my window down and said I needed work done. Then, I asked some people about his work and they highly recommended him.”

Further reflecting on the delights of living in Wildwood, Lindsay said, “My mom’s known so many of these people for years, and she knows who does what. There’s a blacksmith down the street. If you need a bucket truck, there’s a guy with a bucket truck. People kind of barter and trade. My mom has chickens, and it’s amazing what you can get for giving people a few dozen eggs when they want eggs.”

He added that economic diversity adds to the community. “It’s not like everyone’s sitting on some giant mansion. I like having trailers around along with the mansions. To me, that’s what the country is. It’s all these people living out here together.”

Assuming the cabin is a success, Lindsay already has ideas for the future. “A lot of the money I spent was to run the power and water down to this end of the property. Since that’s already done, I’m thinking I’ll build some treehouse rentals up here.”

Photo by Lydia Berglar – A pig, two goats, and chickens wandering around, as well as a vegetable garden and farm equipment, add to the barn’s charm.

Lindsay also has ideas about turning the original red barn into a rustic event venue, but he’s considering how it would change the environment. He explained, “I saw how well Rosie Mae’s Alpaca Farm was doing and thought, ‘Wow, they really made it successful. I hope I can do that with the barn.’ They nailed it with the store and the alpacas drawing people in. To me, success for the venue means there will be a bunch of people there as many days as I can book it, but what if you’re coming to stay at the cabin in this kind of idyllic place and there’s a party going on down there every weekend? I could make a lot more money from the venue if I really focused on it, but there are other things to consider. The cabin is more what I would want Dade County to be.”

The barn already has a history as a venue. Lindsay’s youngest brother got married in the barn, the neighbor’s youngest daughter held her wedding reception there, and family and friends have used it for other parties and receptions. Lindsay said, “Friends will ask if they can use the barn, so it’s been an unofficial venue plenty of times, but if I were charging for it, there’s a few things I’d need to do.”

The interview with Lindsay turned to the economic development of Wildwood and Dade County as a whole. Lindsay said, “Wildwood is the exact same as it’s been as long as I can remember; the trailer down at the end of the road, almost all of the houses, the same broken down tractor in the corner of that field..nothing’s changed. The alpaca farm is probably the biggest news in Wildwood in, well, forever.”

He noted how Lookout Valley, Chattanooga, and even Trenton have changed over the years. “Tiftonia was a ghost town when I was ten, with some mom-and-pop little stores, but then it exploded. Trenton grew in a good way. It kept the small-town vibe. When I was in high school, there was nothing to do in Chattanooga. Then, within a decade, it became a tourist destination.”

He noted how the steel industry shaped the once-industrial, now-tourist city, saying, “My dad talked about walking around downtown and your collar would be covered in black soot from all the pollution. They totally turned Chattanooga around which helps make sense of what I’m doing here. You can come here to Wildwood, relax, go to Cloudland Canyon, go hang gliding, but also visit Rock City and do all of the downtown Chattanooga things. This is a good spot to be outside of Chattanooga where you feel like you’re in the country, yet still so close to everything.”

The Sentinel posed a hypothetical situation to Lindsay: What if Greta reached the point where she couldn’t care for the land anymore, what if he hadn’t moved back to the area, and what if an industrial company or developer for large suburban-style neighborhoods presented an offer she couldn’t turn down?

If landowners want to sell and receive a great offer, who’s to say they need to be picky about who purchases the land? At the same time, many residents value the natural beauty of Dade County and hope to preserve the atmosphere as it is.

Lindsay responded, “That’s one of the scary things about Dade County: There’s no zoning. Recently, someone bought the Dave L. Brown farm on the other side of Highway 11 and people started panicking because the rumor spread that he would turn it into a chicken processing plant. People were trying to figure out how to stop it, but some said, ‘Well, the reason we all moved here is because there’s no zoning laws and we can all do what we want, so we can’t really get mad.’ It was all just a rumor, and he wanted a horse farm, and it’s a beautiful farm.”

Of Wildwood, Lindsay said, “I feel like there’s enough bubbling up that some good things could happen, but it all seems to be completely grassroots, just local people thinking, ‘This is a cool thing I have here; let me see if I can figure out how to monetize this,’ as opposed to corporations coming in.”

He continued, “I don’t want there to be traffic jams all up and down this road, but at the same time, I want people to come spend their money around here because that helps everyone. The short-term rental won’t create a lot of traffic, but the venue would. These are things I need to consider.”

In conclusion, Lindsay reflected, “The two tensions you get are people who want to keep it a hidden secret to keep it like it is and people who want to use this land and environment to make money. If you can thread that needle well, you can accomplish both of those things. That’s what I’m trying to do here–get people out here so they can have a great time with their family or friends enjoying this beautiful place, I can make a little money, and when all’s said and done, we haven’t screwed up the scenery.”

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