County takes fresh look at Halls greenways

Sandra ClarkOur Town Outdoors

Knox County government is serious about building greenways. Here’s an update on Halls (called East Beaver Creek on the county’s map and extending from Gibbs to Powell).

Knox County will extend the greenway along Beaver Creek under Maynardville Pike to link Clayton Park and the Halls schools on the west side to Halls Community Park, Halls Senior Center and Halls Branch Library on the east.

The project scope has been expanded at the request of at-large Commissioner Justin Biggs, who lives in Halls, to include closing gaps in the sidewalks along Maynardville Highway.

Background: Former Parks & Rec senior director Doug Bataille had unfinished business when he resigned/retired at the end of Mayor Tim Burchett’s term in office. Burchett apparently packed up the pending capital projects and shipped them to the Public Building Authority (PBA) without funding.

As we’ve written for 20 years or so – lack of funding, especially capital funding, has limited what Bataille could do. He improvised, using his maintenance crew and volunteers to build structures and raiding his operations budget for capital projects.

But this strategy backfired on Bataille as communities complained about delays in construction. Why did it take the county 10 years to build Clayton Park or Plumb Creek Park? The obvious answer – money.

PBA was tasked to develop a budget for the proposed BMX track at South Doyle Middle School, the build-out of I.C. King Park in South Knox, the east and west portions of a Beaver Creek greenway, and a greenway on Northshore Drive from Lakeshore Park to Loudon County. (Note: We will tackle each project in time, but today’s story is about the Halls greenway.)

On July 12, Ben Johnson and this writer met with PBA officials Jayne Burritt, administrator/CEO; Kristin Lee Grove, director of property development; and Keith Kirkland, project manager.

Burritt confirmed support from Mayor Glenn Jacobs and the state Department of Transportation. She noted the greenway connector under Maynardville Pike was in the 2009 City-County Parks & Recreation plan. And when TDOT rebuilt Maynardville Pike, the old bridge near Marco’s Pizza was left to serve as a trailhead.

From here to done: The PBA used engineering consultants Cannon & Cannon Inc. to draw a plan. It actually includes two alternate routes to get from Norris Freeway to the creek. Download two-page Halls Greenway Concept Plan. Once the final design is locked down, the PBA will seek a TDOT multi-modal transportation grant. If successful, the project could be done within three years. Without the grant, Knox County Commission would fund the project, probably in phases over a longer time.

Sidewalks: “While we were looking at the greenway, (Commissioner) Justin Biggs asked us to look at the sidewalks,” said Kirkland. “We found an 1100-feet gap on the west side that he wants to build out. We’re also looking at a 600-feet gap on the east side.”

So, Jake Mabe and this writer scoped out the sidewalks and the gaps.

Heading north from Fountain City: sidewalk to Old Broadway; gap to Captain D’s; sidewalk to Doris Circle; gap to U.S. Post Office, sidewalk to Quarry Road.

Heading south from Maynardville: sidewalk from Quarry Road to Hardee’s; gap to Norris Freeway; sidewalk through business district to center with Amber Restaurant; gap to Eldridge where city sidewalk begins.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of 865-661-8777.

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