I pitched this idea several years ago, but no takers thus far. Why not showcase the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum as another East Knoxville calling card for tourists? It’s a grand place! Coupled with the Zoo and Chilhowee Park, it makes a trifecta of nifty things to do out east. All that’s missing is a bold leader.
What. The basic idea is to put the Botanical Gardens on the front page. Add logo signs on I-40 at Cherry Street, and then dress up the roadway from that exit to the Botanical Garden. It’s less than a mile and a half. See link to map below. The site does the rest. That gives you exposure to over 100,000 cars per day, some of whom are tourists looking for a family outing. There are diamonds in your backyard.
Steps, by the numbers: 1) Add logo signs on the interstate, both directions. The cost would be roughly $1,600 per year. Peanuts.
2) The city would then place directional signs from the Cherry Street exit to Magnolia Avenue, then right on Magnolia one short block, a left turn onto Chestnut Street. then a quick right (Biddle St.) and left into the main entrance on Wimpole. As noted, it is less than 1 1/2 miles from I-40 to the Botanical Gardens. Good signage solves the issues.
3) City budget management— use existing departmental forces. The urban tree team would spruce up plantings along the route. The redevelopment team would tackle remaining run-down buildings along the way. (Note: A lot of housing renewal has already taken place along Chestnut.) The road sign team would handle the markings (happy green signs, light pole banners, painted street surface emblems, etc). And the Magnolia Corridor project is already sprucing up the main drag.
Overall goal: Tourists would enjoy a half-day stop like that. Add another reason to bring spendable cash to the Magnolia area, and thus encourage another restaurant, coffee house, ice cream shop or hotel. Help grow the already-interesting resources at the Botanical Garden.
Possible spinoff: There is added acreage near the Arboretum. Attract a bourbon or Tennessee whiskey touring plant there. That would go a long way to encourage dad to value the stop. While mom ogles the flowers, dad can tickle his pallet. Meanwhile, the kids can romp in the trees. Nirvana!
Nick Della Volpe is a lawyer and a former member of the city council.
Click for Route to Botanical Gardens