The official opening of the Dogwood Trails on Thursday blew everyone away.
That was in large part thanks to the “gale-force winds” – as one speaker described them – but also because of the beauty of the Lakemoor Hills Trail off Alcoa Highway that greeted attendees on the sunny afternoon.
Local officials, Dogwood Arts staff and volunteers, and an impressive roster of Realty Executives agents, who are sponsoring all 13 trails this year, welcomed visitors to the event adjacent to Lake Hills Presbyterian Church on Maloney Road. Volunteers proved agile and enthusiastic about keeping the decorations and snacks in place as they battled the gusts.
Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, fresh off the dedication of the first trail in 21 years, West Hills, last week, was enthusiastic about the official opening of the trails.
“What’s wonderful about Dogwood Arts is that there’s something new and exciting to celebrate every week,” she said. “So this week, we’re officially opening all 13 Dogwood Trails, 85 miles of eye-popping beauty.
“And there are none that are more gorgeous than the three trails in South Knoxville, which just happen to be the 2022 featured trails: Lakemoor Hills, where we are right now, a waterfront neighborhood that boasts abundant dogwoods …; Chapman Highway, a two-part trail – the post-World War II Colonial Village homes on the west side and Lake Forest and its East Tennessee pink marble homes to the east; and historic Island Home Park, the trail that showcases the city’s largest concentration of bungalow-style homes.
“With 13 Dogwood Trails, there used to be a bit of a wait to be the featured trail … That’s not the case anymore. Starting this year, instead of highlighting a single trail, Dogwood Arts is collectively naming all the trails in one part of Knoxville as this year’s featured trails – plural.
“Promoting a clustering of trails is such a good idea. If you’re walking or bicycling or driving a Dogwood Trail, why not take in all the trails that you’re close by? And now we have an app for all those people who use smartphones, so it’s awesome. It’s a great way to explore and immerse yourself in a part of town and its distinct neighborhoods.”
Kincannon thanked all the people who played a role in bringing the trails to readiness:
“When you have something that’s (been) going on since 1955, that takes a lot of effort by a lot of different people for a long time. That is rare and special, and I celebrate that.”
She also expressed gratitude to “the homeowners and gardeners who plant, nurture and pamper their yards so that they look amazing every spring. Thank you for your green thumbs and for giving us all such delight and inspiration.”
The mayor made note of upcoming Dogwood Arts events, including her “favorite,” the Chalk Walk this Saturday, April 2, on Market Square. The Dogwood Arts Festival will be April 22-24 at World’s Fair Park, and the inaugural (after being postponed twice due to Covid) Southern Skies Music Festival will be at the same location on May 14. Art in Public Places runs through June.
Dwight Van de Vate, chief operating officer and co-chief of staff for Knox County, stood in for County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who was out of town. He recalled standing in for Jacobs in 2021.
“Last year, we were at Holston Hills and likewise a sunny day, but it was about 30 degrees,” he said. Attendees were bundled in their jackets and hunched down in their chairs.
“So I told them they all looked like that Bernie Sanders meme,” said Van de Vate, getting laughs from the 2022 crowd.
“This year, we’ve got much nice weather but gale-force winds. I don’t know, Mayor (Kincannon), maybe it’s us.”
Van de Vate, who grew up in Holston Hills, noted that Dogwood Arts has been around as long as he’s been alive (longer actually; he’s 61).
“Dogwood Arts has a 66-year history in our community,” he said. “It is a huge part of our identity as a community. And the benefits are innumerable, including arts advocacy, environmental stewardship, outdoor recreation, economic impact and more.
“It’s this wonderful time of spring, and it brings us together – east, west, north, south, city, county – in a spirit of unity and in a way that frankly, after the last couple of years, is more important than ever.”
2022 Dogwood Arts co-chair Evetty Satterfield thanked the chairs of the South Knoxville trails before the cutting of pink and green ribbons made the trails official. They are Ann Graf and
Kim Hill for Lakemoor Hills; Nancy Campbell for Island Home Park; and DeDe Wilkerson for the Chapman Highway Trail, which combines Lake Forest and Colonial Village.
The Chapman Highway Trail will celebrate Dogwood Arts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at CommonPlace Coffee & Community, 6000 Chapman Highway. There will be music and vendors.
Island Home Park will celebrate its trail from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, with self-guided walking tours (bikes and cars can also use the trail) and light refreshments and tour information for all at a canopy on Island Home Boulevard.
Betsy Pickle is a freelance writer and editor who particularly enjoys spotlighting South Knoxville.