On a recent early May evening, the sun was setting in Fountain City, casting a glow across the community’s signature lake (or duck pond, as many a local calls it). In nearby Fountain City Park, FitBits and Apple Watches were clocking the regular walkers on the greenway, children were swinging and romping in the playground.
For the past forever, the lake and the park have been under the care and management of the Fountain City Lions Club. Though the club does not own either, it is the legally designated caretaker of both. And therein lies the rub.
Over the past several years, the city of Knoxville has been working in cooperation with Lions Club in taking care of the park and the lake, most notably the lake. While the date is still somewhere out in the future, current Lions Club president Dan Rhea said the club and the city are in ongoing negotiations for the city to assume ownership and management of both.
“When exactly that will be final, I don’t know,” Rhea said. “But hopefully sooner than later. The city has been very helpful in dealing with some issues in recent years that are simply beyond our budget and manpower.”
Rhea is about to begin his second year as club president. All officers elected in 2020 are carrying over another term as the Covid-19 pandemic sidelined pretty much everything the club does last year. Chili and spaghetti supper fundraisers were cancelled. Honor Fountain City Day in the Park has been cancelled again for 2021, but Rhea anticipates its return next year.
“In our negotiations with the city, there are some privileges with the park we wish to maintain,” Rhea said. Those include maintaining the club’s building and storage on the north end of the park at Broadway and Gresham Road. It also includes continued use of the park for Honor Fountain City Day, the Christmas tree lighting, and a handful of other events.
“We’re ready to get back to our main mission as a service organization,” he said. “Not all, but most of our members are seniors. Now that most of us are vaccinated, we want to get back to our two main missions, our vision care program and Christmas bicycle program. We would also like to resume one or two scholarships for students at Central.”
Rhea, 70, is a retired attorney and an imported *almost* Fountain Citian. He and his wife, Paula, actually live in Halls, but they are longtime members of Fountain City Presbyterian Church. They have two grown children and a brand-new grandbaby.
“Fountain City isn’t based on a zip code,” he said. “I’ve been here by choice for 45 years.”
A native of Shepherdsville, Kentucky, he was once a reporter for a Middlesboro newspaper. After getting his undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, he came to Knoxville to attend law school at UT. And here he decided to remain.
“As it turns out, I retired just in time to stay home,” he said.
But right now, he wants to get things at the Lions Club revved up again. The club is once again renting its building for use, though will not continue leasing the gazebo in the park.
Go here for more info on the Fountain City Lions Club, but note that the website is due for an update. The current phone number for vision assistance is 865-352-6499.
Enjoy this collection of photos from the lake and the park:
Beth Kinnane is community news editor for KnoxTNToday.com