Jacobs boosts rec budget; parks ready for summer

Mike DonilaOur Town Outdoors

Lots of stuff going on in the Parks and Recreation Department’s world this past week.

First off, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs set aside $250,000 so the department can begin putting together a master plan. This is hugely crucial to the department’s success and absolutely needed to secure major federal funding. This is something the department has needed for years.

Also, if you saw the mayor’s budget presentation on Tuesday, then you know he’s committed to recreation.

As he noted in his speech:

“Knox County is richly blessed with incredible outdoor space and parks, largely because of the work of our Parks and Recreation Department. This very park (Karns Sportspark, originally set as the site of the budget address) is a prime example as it was recently recognized by USA Softball of Tennessee as “Complex of the Year.” Another important feather in our cap is the completion of the section of the Knox-Blount Greenway off the Alcoa Highway. When finished, this greenway system will connect Knox County through Blount County and eventually run all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“We also recently cut the ribbon on Collier Preserve, a beautiful 12-acre park in Powell that includes ADA walking trails, (and will include) interactive nature exhibits and a kayak rest stop. A big thanks to the Legacy Parks Foundation for spearheading that project before turning it over to us.

Legacy Parks has also been instrumental in planning and fundraising for the new French Broad Veterans Memorial Park. Overlooking the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery, that park will do two things. While the breathtaking view of the river illustrates the natural beauty of East Tennessee and provides a gorgeous backdrop for family and community events, the rows of gravestones in the distance remind us of the sacrifices fellow Americans have made to protect the liberties that we so often take for granted.”

Also this past week, our one-man team of Frank Christian spent a day painting tables at Spring Place Park and Nicholas Ball Park, and then headed over to the SportsPark to work on the ADA parking spaces.

We, of course, had the mowers going full blast. And – as almost always – we had folks out in Beaver Creek, working on the first-of-its-kind Knox County Water Trail … a 44-mile water trail that stretches all the way from Halls to Melton Hill Lake and links these with the communities of Solway, Karns, Hardin Valley and Powell. More than just being an incredible and unique recreational asset, the trail will mitigate flooding and improve water quality. We appreciate our partners on this project, especially the Beaver Creek Kayak Club, for helping bring this vision to reality.

On Tuesday, May 11, we plan to officially open the Calloway Ridge Trailhead (just off Concord Road/Northshore Drive Roundabout) at 11 a.m. At that time, we will preview the overall master plan for pedestrian improvements along the Concord/Northshore/Cove/Choto corridor.

The grading, paving, turn-in, signage and lighting work on this project was completed by Knox County Engineering & Public Works. Other partners who may be in attendance include Appalachian Mountain Bike Club and Legacy Parks Foundation.

This trailhead is Phase I of the larger Northshore Safety, Wellness & Connectivity Project that will ultimately connect two dangerous stretches of Northshore Drive. Key elements include improved roadway safety for residents, healthy access to The Cove at Concord Park, and customer connectivity to local business. Once complete, the project will serve 371 businesses and 11,351 residents in 5,280 households within 1.5 miles.

Now, on the Recreation side, we have a huge Men’s Senior Softball Tournament coming June 3-13 at the Sportspark in Karns. This league features those ages 50 through 75, and it’s really good softball, so check it out! It’s fun and draws a big crowd and as our folks who study economic impact numbers like to say: These tournaments “put a lot of heads in beds,” so they help the overall community financially.

In addition, youth football preparations should be underway in our community parks. We still have adult softball going at the Sportspark until end of May; adult soccer at Tommy Schumpert; and youth soccer at US Cell.

Also, tournaments at the Sportspark and – yes – we still need umpires. If you’re interested, please call Sports Operations Manager Jennifer Gentry at 865-215-6609.

I’ve been writing this column for awhile now, and I enjoy it. It gives folks a chance to see how their tax dollars are spent. Usually, I focus on the Parks and Recreation Department (that was my first love when I joined county government) but, I love the library system as well.

So, I’m gonna throw in some stuff that the kind folks from Knox County Public Library sent me.

The system recently joined 17 other agencies as part of the Remake Learning Days Festival with its Pilot’s Pursuit Adventure Game. To play, families can drop by any library location to pick up the scratch off game card with some literary challenges. Kids who complete the adventure game will win a balsa airplane.

Also, this month, Mayor Jacobs’ Read City Million Hour Challenge focuses on Animals of the Savannah. Families can pick up or download this month’s craft – animal finger puppets. Book suggestions and the craft can be found here. The community has now logged more than 300,000 hours toward its million-hour goal.

In addition, May is National Preservation Month, and the Library’s online trivia game, Know it Knox, features our own historic places. Todd Morgan, executive director of Knox Heritage, will be the guest host and provide commentary for each question. The game will be played at 7 p.m. on May 18. You can register here.

For those who need a little help with downloadable media, we have you covered. The Library is teaming up with OverDrive to offer a virtual training session on May 24. Registration is required here.

And, for those planning to attend the city of Knoxville’s Senior’iffic, keep an eye out for the Library and Friends of the Library. We’ll be there with books galore!

Now of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the fine work by the folks over at the Knox County Engineering and Public Works Department. Here’s a snapshot of some of the stuff they’ve done the past week:

  • Hickory Creek Road – Shoulder repair with new pipe installation
  • Washington Pike – Cross drain replacement
  • W. Bull Run Valley Road – Side drain clean out with our (new) JetVac truck
  • Sharp Road – Typically routine asphalt patching operation

Enjoy this carousel of photos of work across the county:

Mike Donila is communications director for Knox County government

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