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Located on 40 miles of Chickamauga Lake shoreline, Harrison Bay State Park is a haven for boaters and fishermen.

If, God forbid, your car should break down, Highway 58 in Harrison may be the best spot in the Chattanooga area to get it fixed.

Auto shops are a dime a dozen along this rural stretch of road in northern Hamilton County that eventually leads visitors to a beautiful vista of Chickamauga Lake.

Harrison doesn't have numerous bars and restaurants and boutique shops like booming parts of downtown Chattanooga. Strip malls pepper the roadside until you get closer to the water, and then it's tackle shops, marinas and Harrison Bay State Park, a 1,200-acre park and campground.

"We're not like North Shore," says Marie Mosley, who does volunteer work in Harrison. "By no means do we have all that stuff."

THEIR FAVORITES

If you're in the area and looking for lunch, Shimkus and Mosley recommend:

Merv's Burgers
6306 TN-58, 423-713-9131
A hot debate rages over who has the best burgers locally, with Merv's often taking the top spot depending on who you ask. The restaurant promises its burgers are fresh, never frozen, and hand-patted each day.

Amigo Mexican Restaurant
6830 Flamingo Lane, 423-710-8970
Serving classic Mexican cuisine, this chain has won over hearts and stomachs — it's been publicly voted "Best of the Best" for Mexican food and meal for the money in the Chattanooga area.

What Harrison does have, Mosley says, is a network of volunteers who host bluegrass concerts and car shows to quietly raise money for local school scholarships and clothes for the homeless.

Enter the Ruritan Club, a nationwide nonprofit that's been around for about 90 years. Harrison started a chapter 65 years ago, Mosley says, and it remains largely active. The club meets once a month and organizes community events.

"We have car shows and pork butt sales and all of that money goes into the community," she says. "Scholarships, the baseball field, uniforms, food baskets at Thanksgiving, we help the Volunteer Fire Department on Highway 58 — there are so many things."

Outside of that ad-hoc group, other community members are at work, too.

Julia Shimkus, who operates Shear Escape Salon on Highway 58, says she makes regular trips to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen to donate whatever clothes and toiletries her customers bring by the store.

Shimkus agrees that Harrison is quieter than other bustling parts of Chattanooga. But there's plenty of fun, too. People can rent boats at Island Cove Marina and spend the day on Chickamauga Lake.

Afterward, they can sip a margarita and enjoy a nice waterside view at Amigo Mexican Restaurant nearby.

BY THE NUMBERS

WHO WE ARE

Median household income: $56,938

Population: 12,085

Average age: 44.3

Homeowners: 33%

Source: NeighborhoodScout, 2010 Census

WHERE WE LIVE

Median home price: $168,500

» Home values have gone up 9.9% over the last year and are predicted to rise 3.8% within the next year.

Average rental price: $920

Source: NeighborhoodScout, Zillow

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Dr. Katie Hawkins works with her sixth-grade literature class on finding grammatical errors at Brown Middle School.

OUR SCHOOLS

Harrison Elementary (K-5)

Population: 406

Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 5/5 in literacy, 3/5 in numeracy

Hillcrest Elementary (preK-5)

Population: 361

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 2/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

Lakeside Academy (K-5)

Population: 452

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 5/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

Brown Middle

Population: 442

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 3/5 in literacy, 3/5 in numeracy

Central High

Population: 962

Proficiency (TVAAS): 2/5 overall, 4/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

ACT scores: 19.1 composite, 18.2 in English, 18.3 in math, 19.6 in reading, 19.6 in science

*The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scale runs from 1-5, with 1 denoting the least effective schools/districts and least amount of progress toward the Standard for Academic Growth.

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Lawrence Rose checks out this 1967 Chevelle SS 396 at the Harrison Ruritan Club Open Car Show.

WHAT WE DO FOR FUN

Harrison Bay State Park

Developed in the 1930s as a Tennessee Valley Authority recreation area, Harrison Bay State Park spans 1,200 acres and offers camping, golfing and biking in a peaceful wooded setting next to Chickamauga Lake. Along with 128 RV campsites that offer water and electrical hookups, visitors can hit the 4.5-mile loop bike trail. Those looking for something slower paced can hit the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Trace Golf Course, spend a leisurely day on the water with their own watercraft, or stick to the banks for a relaxing afternoon of fishing. An orienteering course helps people test their map and compass skills, an offering unique to the park. 8411 Harrison Bay Road. Call 423-344-6214.

Booker T. Washington State Park

Just up the road, Booker T. Washington State Park's 6 miles of singletrack trail are a popular spot for mountain biking, especially for those new to the sport. Visitors can cool off with a dip in the Olympic-size pool or paddle out in one of the kayaks and paddleboards available through on-site rental service Rusty's Kayaks and Paddle Boards. 5801 Champion Road. Call 423-894-4955.

Source: TNstateparks.com

DETAILS

CITY SERVICES: Harrison doesn't have its own municipal government, and is instead governed by the Hamilton County Commission, which meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at 9:30 a.m. To view agendas and minutes, visit hamiltontn.gov/Commission/meetings.aspx.

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