City plans to demolish and recreate Fort Kid

Larry Van GuilderInside 640, Our Town Kids

A community-built downtown landmark is slated for demolition by the city of Knoxville. Fort Kid, built by volunteers for Knoxville’s bicentennial and opened in 1991, will come under the wrecking ball before mid-April if the city proceeds with its plan.

According to the city’s website, Fort Kid will close April 6, 2020, for new construction:

“This elaborate urban playground is in Downtown Knoxville located between the Victorian Houses and the Knoxville Museum of Art.

“With its thousands of square feet of slides, rides and swings, Fort Kid is a popular destination for school, church and daycare groups. Picnic tables and benches are available for parents to watch the wee ones play. Awesome view of the Sunsphere and is a short distance from World’s Fair Park which also includes a playground, water play fountains and open space.”

Writing for the Ford Kid Committee, attorney Alexander O. Waters said in a Feb. 16 press release that “Fort Kid is, and has always been, a community-built playground. The historic playground was designed using the public’s ideas, built with community-raised funds, and erected over five days in 1991 by 2,500 volunteers.

“However, the city’s planned demolition has been driven by a small number of public officials and private interests, without public input or community meetings. (Editor’s note: A public meeting did take place on March 12. See below.) The city uses the term ‘renovation,’ but the only definite plans or funding are for demolition of Fort Kid and the retaining wall facing the museum.” (See the complete press release: Fort Kid Demolition Imminent – 2-18-2020)

A March 10 media release from the city provided some details about the plan to renovate the playground. (See the media release: 031020 Fort Kid Images and Survey) Mayor Indya Kincannon was quoted as saying, “It is important for us to rebuild Fort Kid in the spirit of the original park constructed nearly 30 years ago. I am looking forward to working with the community on this project and making sure that Fort Kid will be here for generations to come.”

Despite the spirit of the mayor’s words, a March 12 community meeting left members of the Fort Kid Committee less than satisfied. Following is a sampling of comments from the committee’s Facebook page:

  • After being active in Knoxville for over 32 years I was embarrassed by the meeting. It was advertised as a “public” meeting, but it was anything but that. I felt the city participants, the visual displays, colored posters and drawings, as well as the printed survey were all orchestrated to substantiate and reinforce the decision the city had already made. It was window dressing disguised as a “public” meeting. A slap in the face to the people who worked so hard to develop an asset to the World’s Fair Site 29 years ago. I realize the current structure probably doesn’t meet today’s standards but what is being proposed falls very short.
  • This is a clear breach of faith by the city. I’m going to use the only real recourse we have, by refusing to vote for anyone who had a hand in this decision, and that starts with the mayor.
  • Terrible news! I can’t believe that they refuse to see reason. Fort Kid is a piece of Knoxville’s history that should be preserved.
  • I was hoping to take my kids one more time, but with everyone staying home for health reasons I guess that might not be possible. I am sure the government already had everything decided, and this meeting was a hoop to jump through to show involvement of stakeholders.

See the Fort Kid Committee Facebook page HERE.

Mayor Kincannon did not attend the meeting which was orchestrated by city officials with a display of slides depicting examples of typical playground designs under consideration.

The Fort Kid Committee plans to celebrate the playground’s 29th birthday on Saturday, April 4, from 12-2 p.m. at Fort Kid. The committee urges residents with comments on the plan to contact their council member or Deputy Mayor David Brace at 865-215-2060.

The link to the city’s renovation plans is HERE.

Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for Knox TN Today.

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