The future of Lakeshore Park looks beautiful – and functional.
Julieanne Foy, executive director of the Lakeshore Park Conservancy, the private organization working with the city of Knoxville on developing the park, says a public-input period recently concluded, and the master plan is being tweaked with suggestions received.
An update will be presented live from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, on CTV. Foy and Sheryl Ely, the city’s Parks & Recreation director, will moderate along with leaders from the conservancy and landscape architects, and citizens will be able to email questions and comments.
The following Thursday, Oct. 1, also 5:30-7:30, there will be an in-person meeting at Marble Hall in Lakeshore Park so that the community can view images of the proposed plans and make comments.
The updated plan will be presented to Knoxville City Council on Oct. 20.
Foy, who has been executive director of the conservancy since last November, says the park has seen a record number of visitors during the coronavirus pandemic. With an estimated one million users annually, Lakeshore is the city’s most visited park and has become a welcome escape for many seeking safe, socially distanced exercise.
The redesign will make it even more user friendly, Foy says.
“I think what I like the most about the plan is that it really distinguishes the different areas of the park and the usage in those areas,” she says. The park will be divided into three zones: an athletic zone with playing fields grouped together on the Northshore Drive side; a civic/cultural zone in the central corridor incorporating the overlook area with its views of the Tennessee River and the Smoky Mountains; and a natural area along Lyons View Drive that will offer a woodland play area in addition to cross-country trails.
Foy says the latter will be a “fun and magical place for kids to go play.”
Among the suggestions already submitted are a dog park and additional parking.
“We’re trying to decide if they are things we can integrate,” she says.
The pandemic has affected some of the thinking on what the park should offer.
“With the pandemic and the different use of the park now, we’ve seen that people are really looking for small spaces that are shaded and places where they can meet with a group of friends or meet with a bunch of moms and their kids and feel safe and not necessarily go to a great big playground,” says Foy.
The next phase is the design, and design will drive the cost. Foy expects the total project to exceed $40 million and says it’s the conservancy’s role to raise the capital, with the city contributing infrastructure.
For now, though, she’s keeping an eye on what Lakeshore means to the community.
“One of the biggest concerns with the project is making sure that we are not disrupting the people s enjoyment of the park,” she says. “We really are going to focus on that as we move forward with construction, making sure that people can still use the trails and access the park easily.”
Info on the Master Plan plus additional renderings at lakeshoreparkknoxville.org
Betsy Pickle is a freelance writer and editor.