Della Volpe, Cannon parry on greenway project

Sandra ClarkNortheast Knox, Our Town Leaders

Leadership means being a pest when necessary and staying with a project until it is done. Today’s topic is Nick Della Volpe – retired TVA attorney, member of Knoxville City Council (2010-18), activist with Town Hall East for 30-plus years and sometimes writer for KnoxTNToday.com.


Nick is not your typical Southern gentleman, bless his heart, and is often abrasive. This week he’s kept me in the loop as he reached out to everyone with a pulse in city government.

Nick Della Volpe

He started with, “Hey, guys. We need to capitalize on the upcoming TDOT and city roadwork on Millertown Pike in order to complete a segment of the Loves Creek greenway.

“There is a studied/ planned segment of that trail – to extend from Millertown Pike south to the existing concrete walkway segment below Walmart’s gabion wall – that can be easily finished with the equipment that will be out there.

“Tommy Vann, the owner of that Millertown shopping center (includes the Taco Bell sloped hill, west, down to the creek), has twice offered to let the city build out the trail there w/o charge Re land use. … The only sticking point for this short trail segment has been the need to cross the very small creek headwaters there.”

Harold Cannon

Harold Cannon PE, director of the Department of Engineering, was the designated responder for the city.

He gently but firmly deflected Della Volpe. While the connection is in the city’s long-range greenway plan, it has environmental issues (creek and wetlands) that will make permitting complicated and the project expensive, he wrote. Whereas, the TDOT and city road project is already designed and will proceed quickly once construction starts.

Therefore, it’s no-go on incorporating the greenway trail into the road project.

Della Volpe pushed back, outlining his credentials and passion for the project. He ended: “I hope (you) are not politely shoving this trail segment on the talked-about-but- never-built shelf. Let’s maturely tackle any hurdles and “get ’er done!”

It could have ended there, but Cannon came back with respect for Della Volpe’s efforts to promote walkability on Loves Creek. He promised a field trip to the section with Sheryl Ely, director of Parks and Recreation.

He remained firm that he would not delay the road project to try to add the greenway link. But he said his field trip reaffirms the city’s desire to see this project accomplished. It just may be later rather than sooner.

I was honored to be privy to this correspondence. It shows how folks in government should work with mutual respect for the other’s point of view. But if you’re a betting person, put your money on the fast-talking Italian-American. Della Volpe will never give up. Every greenway needs such an advocate.

These pictures, taken Sept. 8, 2021, by Nick Della Volpe, show the potential and the challenge of the greenway extension.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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