Foundation invests $5.5 million at Morningside Park

Sandra ClarkEast Knox, Our Town Outdoors

Morningside Park already has the Alex Haley Heritage Square, walking trails and disc golf. Soon, thanks to a $5.5 million grant from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, the park will be adding two playgrounds, restrooms and a multi-purpose field with bleachers.

Mayor Indya Kincannon said, “It’s a beautiful day in Knoxville, Tennessee.”

On Aug. 25, ground was broken for the park expansion. “We didn’t want to build a park and then tell people what to do there,” said Kincannon. Charles Lomax, the city’s community empowerment director, asked a range of community members what they wanted. “What can we do to make this park more appealing?”

The overwhelming response was restrooms.

Kincannon called the grant “an incredible gift,” and said with some 90 parks inside the city, it’s hard to get around. The BlueCross Foundation is providing $4.6 million for the project build and an additional $920,000 for a maintenance fund, bringing the total investment to $5,520,000.

Bruce Bosse, chief executive officer of Merit Construction, spoke for the BlueCross Foundation. He serves on its board of directors. He said the Foundation has invested $34.8 million in BlueCross Healthy Place projects across the state. There are 16 projects open statewide with more on the way.

Gwen McKenzie represents the district on city council. She called the grant transformational and thanked the city and Legacy Parks Foundation for working on it. Knoxville-based landscape architecture firm Ross/Fowler created conceptual designs of the space for the submission.

The 36-acre park came out of urban renewal in the 1960s. Land was set aside, but Morningside has never been a high-use park. That should change with these amenities.

Two elementary schools are within walking distance and the park is on a city bus line. University and multi-family apartments are close by, as is a high-rise community for seniors.

Sheryl Ely is director of parks for the city

“Morningside Park is one of the largest parks in Knoxville, and we’re hopeful with these much-needed upgrades, more people will be able to enjoy this tree-lined treasure near downtown,” said Sheryl Ely, parks and recreation director for the city. “New playground and fitness equipment will add something for people of all ages to enjoy, and the addition of restrooms will make it a great space for local neighborhood groups to gather.

“We are excited and appreciative of the grant from the BlueCross Foundation for helping to make this all possible.”

Features in the new space will include:

  • Multipurpose field with bleachers
  • Playgrounds for children ages 2-5 and 5-12
  • Challenge course
  • 40-yard dash
  • Fitness area
  • Walking trail
  • Community pavilion

Play areas and challenge courses will be constructed with accessible poured-in-place surfacing for visitors of all abilities.

Enjoy these photos from the event and conceptual pictures of the park expansion.

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