County crews busy with cleanup, repairs

Mike DonilaOur Town Outdoors

Even with the cold settling in, our folks in the Knox County Parks and Recreation Department are out there almost daily, making sure the parks are well kept and the sports are running. For example, recent storms took down a number of trees throughout the area, but our crews were out there, cutting and removing them.

“They got knocked down all over the place,” said Jason Halliburton, who supervises the maintenance crews. He added that Concord Park was probably hit the biggest.

And speaking of the team members out west … They spent part of the week taking down tens of thousands of lights that were set up at the Cove for the annual Holiday Festival of Lights. They also set up new bleachers at one of the ball fields, and the carpenters joined them to build new doors at some of the score keeper stands.

And since I mentioned the Festival of Lights, I should add that we plan to drop off the food raised (almost 12 barrels worth) and a check (almost $6,000) to the non-profit Love Kitchen in early February. We’re ironing out the dates now.

As always, the one-man machine Frank Christian has spent some time working on new signs and pressure washing the playgrounds, walkways, benches and tables. Frank also helped out removing a tree that fell across a fence at I.C. King Park.

“We had some trees take out some signs, so I’m getting them replaced,” he said. “We definitely want it safe out there in the parks and for the greenway users.”

We’re also looking right now at installing posts and cables along the new Calloway Ridge Trailhead and greenway. The trailhead as you might recall was opened last May. It’s just west of the Northshore Drive roundabout and accessible for runners and mountain bikes.

It’s part of the larger Northshore Safety, Wellness & Connectivity Project that will ultimately connect two dangerous stretches of Northshore Drive. Unfortunately, we’re going have to spend quite a bit of money installing these because people can’t stop driving their vehicles down them. The other day, we had someone hauling their sailboat along the greenway!

As a reminder, we are currently seeking the publics’ input for the creation of a 5-Year Parks Master Plan. The purpose of this plan is to assist the county with prioritizing park and trail system projects, and renovations over the next five years. The public is encouraged to complete a short survey that will provide information for what will become a master plan the county can use to build and better parks, trails, fields, and other amenities. We have signs with QR codes to take the survey that are available at several county parks.

Last year, Knox County hired Kimley-Horn, a planning and design engineering firm, to help put together a Comprehensive Land Use and Transportation plan for the county and a specific Master Plan for Parks and Recreation. The information collected from the survey will be turned over to the firm, which will then provide the department with feedback and a draft recommendation. Also, during this time, the firm will evaluate the county’s existing parks and their conditions while also conducting a demographic analysis and staffing assessment.

As it stands, the county should have a completed Parks master plan by September 2022. Counties need a master plan that is current within five years to accept some state and federal grants. A plan also helps the county from both a budgetary and development standpoint for the overall parks system. The department’s plan is currently 11 years old.

On the recreation side, youth lacrosse will crank up Jan. 24 at John Tarleton Park and then at Tommy Schumpert Park in mid-February. Youth soccer starts at Tommy Schumpert Park on Jan. 31. We also are beginning to schedule tournaments at the Sportspark in Karns and those will kick off the first weekend in March. We are currently working on dates for adult softball and the home run derby event for the spring.

In addition, we are hiring part-time employees, so if you’re interested, you can reach us at 865-215-6600.

Here’s some photos from work around the parks:

Mike Donila is communications director for Knox County government

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