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Parks and Recreation

The Warner Parks: Nashville's Emerald Gem

Autumn color in Warner ParkThe Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation of Nashville and Davidson County manage Edwin and Percy Warner Parks, collectively known as "The Warner Parks." Together, these parks span over 3,132 acres of forest and fields, 9 miles from downtown Nashville.

Over 500,000 people visit the Parks annually, using the picnic areas, scenic roadways and overlooks, hiking trails, equestrian center and horse trails, cross country running courses, golf courses, and athletic fields. Warner Parks has many features such as the Hodge House, built around 1811, the Steeplechase, family cemeteries, that contributed to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Founding of Warner Parks

Three prominent Nashvillians shared in the vision that produced the Warner Parks. The first of these, Colonel Luke Lea, was encouraged in this far-sighted plan by his father-in-law, Percy Warner. A life-long outdoorsman and nature lover, Warner was a prominent Nashville business man and served as chair of the Park Board. In January 1927, Colonel Lea and Mrs. Percie (Warner) Lea generously deeded the initial 868 acres of land to the city. Following Percy Warner's unexpected death later that year, Lea petitioned the Park Board to name the park after his father-in-law. Lea's contribution is recognized by the one of the highest points in Percy Warner Park, Luke Lea Heights, also known as Lea Summit.

Following his brother's death, Edwin Warner seceded his brother on the Park Board, and eventually he became chair as well. He was a driving force behind the acquisition and development of the Parks. In 1937, the Park Board commemorated his valuable contributions by designating all acquired property west and south of Old Hickory Boulevard as Edwin Warner Park.

Ecology of Warner Parks

American Beech trees in winterThe Parks are located in the western edge of the Nashville Basin. Several ecological zones are recognized within the Parks, most notably oak-hickory and beech-maple temperate forests, and cedar glades. Hidden springs, creeks, and wetland areas also bring interesting plant and animal species, including Maidenhair and Walking Ferns, Cardinal Flower, River Otter, Muskrat, and Northern Zigzag Salamanders. Look deep into the hollows to find Pawpaw patches and Virginia Bluebells, and high on the knobs for White Ash, American Beech, and numerous red oaks.

Pre-park farming has had an everlasting effect on the ecology of Warner Parks. Many fields sport native grasses of Andropogon and wildflowers such as Goldenrod (Solidago spp) and Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), as well as Honey Locust and Osage Orange trees. Bush Honeysuckle, (non-native) Privet, Wintercreeper Euonymous, and Tree-of-Heaven or Ailanthus are evident throughout both Edwin and Percy Warner Parks. Although these invasives were originally planted by the first settlers of the park land, most continue to thrive due to their many advantages over our native flora: longer growth season, deep roots, and fruit with multiple seeds are just a few of the strategies used to out-compete our native plants.

A municipal multi-purpose park

Children and adults flying model airplanesWarner Parks amenities include:

  • 2 golf courses - Harpeth Hills Golf Course and Percy Warner Golf Course
  • 2 cross country running courses-Vaughn's Gap cross country course and Steeplechase cross country course
  • Baseball, soccer, and softball fields with concessions, restrooms, and evening lights. Field reservations can be made by calling 615-862-8405.
  • Model airplane field. Edwin Warner Model Aviators meet here regularly.
  • Bob Brown Field Station research facility
  • Reservable picnic areas along the Little Harpeth River off of Vaughn Road in Edwin Warner Park, as well as in Indian Springs off of Chickering Road in Percy Warner Park. Call 615-862-8408 to reserve these shelters April through October.
  • Edwin Warner dog park on Vaughn Road
  • 1811 Hodge House, restored through funding from Friends of Warner Park and Metro Parks
  • Steeplechase horse track, home of the Iroquois Steeplechase race in May