20-mile water trail for French Broad; expansion of state birding park

Sandra ClarkOur Town Outdoors, South Knox

Legacy Parks Foundation is partnering with Knoxville and Knox County to build a 20-mile world-class, fully accessible water trail on the French Broad River from Seven Islands to Downtown Knoxville.

Carol Evans

Carol Evans made the announcement Friday (9/29/23) at the annual Legacy Luncheon for the Parks. TVA and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are also participating. Each year Evans sells more tickets (soon she will have two seatings like a church) and she makes at least one major announcement. This year she had two.

The Pete Claussen family is donating 90 acres to expand the Seven Islands State Birding Park.

Greer Tidwell, deputy commissioner of the TN Department of Environment and Conservation, said, “The Claussens’ extraordinary land donation and unwavering support for Seven Islands State Birding Park have transformed a vision into a reality, creating a place where nature and people thrive. Their generosity is monumental, and we are profoundly grateful for their enduring commitment to the park’s mission and its future.”

Last year’s theme was access for all to outdoor recreation in woods and on waterways. Evans announced an adaptive dock to be installed at Cruze Landing.

That dock is in and Evans said two additional accessible docks have been fully funded and will be installed at Seven Islands and Asbury Landing to create ideal access at 5- to 7-mile intervals along the river. “This accessible water trail will be the first of its kind in the state and what we hope will be the first of many.”

Accessible docks are good for everyone. While there are no guarantees what happens once you are in the water, you are not going to get wet before you even start. As the photo shows, you can get into a canoe or kayak from the dock, using your arms to support your weight. Ditto on getting out.

Carol Evans sees possibilities for fun where others see weeds, mud, snakes and gophers. But her genius is bringing 1,100 guests under a tent for $100 each for a sandwich and chips. And on the way out, she sells off the flowers.

Part of the crowd. Up front are state Sens. Richard Briggs and Becky Massey.

To date, Legacy Parks has raised more than $11 million for parks and trails, added over 600 acres of parkland in Knox County and created over 60 miles of trails within Knoxville’s city limits.

Other project highlights included fundraising to create the Angora Frog Farm in Powell, the SoKno Art Trail in south Knoxville, the Play Every Day campaign; and the opening of the intergenerational playspace at Beverly Park in October.

Keynote speaker Chuck Leavell shared his inspiring life story of balancing the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, family and his love of forests. Then he charmed those in attendance with his incredible piano mastery. And everybody stood up, stretched and said, “See you next year!”

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today Inc. Sarah Rump from Legacy Parks Foundation provided information for this article, and Ronnie Collins provided photos.


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