Dr. and Mrs. Collier signed the deed for the Collier family farm over to Legacy Parks Foundation on December 31st, providing a new park for Knox County and a fitting end to a decade of projects and success for Legacy Parks Foundation. The twelve-acre tract adds to the more than 500 acres of parkland Legacy Parks has added in Knox County. Over the past ten years the Foundation has raised more than $8 million for parks, trails and open space and has plans for more in 2017.
“We began 2016 focused on creating Baker Creek Preserve on the 100 acres in south Knoxville donated to us by the Wood family. With a state RTP grant, grants from the Siddiqi Foundation, outfitter REI, Bell Helmets, thousands of dollars of donated services and hundreds of hours of volunteer time, we were able to create an outdoor destination for everyone from hardcore mountain bikers to families with small children, explained Carol Evans, Legacy Parks Foundation executive director. “Creating a destination nature preserve along Beaver Creek in north Knox County seems the perfect way to begin 2017.”
The Collier Preserve is among the “Three R’s” that Legacy Parks will focus on in the coming year – Regional, Rivers and Rails. The Collier Preserve will be adjacent to the Powell Library and a key destination along the proposed Beaver Creek Greenway, which envisions a trail along Beaver Creek from Halls to Powell. It is a concept some 10 years in the making with the first plan conceived by the Water Quality Forum in 2006.
Working with the East Tennessee Community Design Center and actively engaged residents of Powell and Halls, Legacy Parks will coordinate the effort to both create the Collier Preserve and look at opportunities along Beaver Creek for greenway connections.
Legacy Parks will expand its work farther out into the region with projects in Blount County and Oak Ridge. The Foundation will work with transportation planners and civic leaders in Blount County to create a marketing and fundraising plan for the Maryville to Townsend greenway, a plan put forth by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization in 2014.
In Anderson County, Legacy Parks will continue the work of expanding the trail network on conserved land owned by the Department of Energy. The foundation formed its first collaboration with the DOE in 2015 with the construction of the Sinkhole Trail.
The second of the Three R’s is “Rails” with Legacy Parks’ announcement of the G & O Trail, a three-mile rail-with-trail project stretching from near Chapman Highway to Ijams Nature Center’s Mead’s Quarry. This virtually flat, soft trail will provide both a recreational and commuter route for all levels of runners, walkers, and bikers. It is being compared to a smaller version of Atlanta’s Beltline, a rail trail that has helped transform abandoned building and blocks into retail and residential destinations.
Recognizing Knoxville as a river city, Legacy Parks will intensify its efforts to both protect and create greater access to our key waterways in 2017. In tackling the third “R”, the Foundation will focus on increasing public access along the French Broad River and upper Holston River – rivers with tremendous recreational potential yet limited public access points. The Foundation will partner with TVA and TWRA to identify points along both rivers where public access is needed and possible.
In addition to the Three R’s, Legacy Parks will continue the work of creating, improving and expanding Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, a project the Foundation launched in 2008. The Urban Wilderness initiative envisions a connected system of parks, trails, greenways, water access and neighborhoods from Alcoa Highway to the head of the Tennessee River on Knoxville’s south side. It has become known as a regional outdoor recreational destination and relies upon a unique collaboration among multiple entities – including TWRA, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, Ijams Nature Center, and private landowners – to maintain a network of more than 50 miles of trail, adventure play areas, downhill mountain bike trails, parks and river access. Legacy Parks anticipates creating additional trail connections this year toward the goal of connecting the Urban Wilderness trail system to the Knox Blount Greenway on Alcoa Highway.
Legacy Parks created an adventure play space in the Urban Wilderness’ Baker Creek Preserve in 2016 through a grant from the Siddiqi Foundation. A $150,000 grant from the Trinity Foundation
to Legacy Parks will fund the next play project – a unique play space specifically designed for middle-school-aged children. The play area will be across the street from Baker Creek Preserve and adjacent to South Doyle Middle School. It will be designed by Ross Fowler based upon research conducted by Bryant Research with the students from the school and adjoining neighborhoods. The project aims to improve the health of a targeted group of middle school students, the population that shows the greatest rate of decline of physical activity. Legacy Parks will collaborate with the Knox County Health Department to evaluate the impact of the play space on the children’s health.
Additional 2017 projects for Legacy Parks include collaborating with Visit Knoxville to promote recreational tourism in Knox County, assisting the city in establishing a bike share program in Knoxville, and working with land owners and developers on land conservation practices.