South Knoxville suffered a crushing blow Monday when Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced that he was killing the BMX park planned for the campus of South-Doyle Middle School.
Jacobs, who has been in office for six months, disregarded the dedication and efforts of people who have been working for six years to bring the park to Knoxville.
Dr. John Edwards, president of Knoxville BMX, says he and his group feel that their hard work and knowledge were disregarded and he is “highly disappointed.”
County Commissioner Carson Dailey, who represents South Knox County, says he disagreed with the mayor’s decision.
“I’m disappointed and sad that the project didn’t go through,” Dailey says. “It would have benefited Knoxville and Knox County.”
BMX (bicycle motocross) is a growing sport, and races generate millions in revenue in cities that have bike tracks. Numerous meetings have been held throughout South Knoxville to inform people about the project, and neighborhood groups have voiced their support for the track.
The project started under Mayor Tim Burchett and was overseen by Parks & Recreation director Doug Bataille until he was unceremoniously fired by Burchett shortly before Jacobs took office. Bataille had saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars by partnering with the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, whose members donate time and knowledge helping to build trails and clean up public parks.
The AMBC was working with Knoxville BMX as well and was looking forward to helping local youth get acquainted with bicycling.
SDMS has an unusual campus in that it has an actual stadium instead of just bleachers at what was the football field when the school was built as a high school. Knox County Schools agreed to cede the stadium to Parks & Rec. In exchange, Parks & Rec cleared and leveled two fields up the hill from the stadium for the school’s use for football and soccer fields. A new concession stand, restrooms and ADA accessibility were also in the plans.
About $336,000 has already been spent, primarily to move earth from the higher fields to the stadium to serve as the base for the BMX track. Jacobs’ plan is to spend about $200,000 more to move the dirt back up the hill.
Edwards says he thinks it will cost much more than $200,000 to move all the dirt, and he hates to see taxpayer money wasted.
A lifelong South Knoxvillian, Edwards says the BMX project was to exert an influence far beyond biking.
“I think that what gets lost in this is our passion for the project,” says Edwards. “I think that what also gets lost is a lot of the hard work and the sacrifices that my family and our group have made to try to better the community.
“A large part of this project was things that we were going to institute at the school. We had a STEM program to teach kids about bike safety and maintenance and engineering and athletics. We had a track-modeling program to do 3-D building.
“We had a loaner-bike program we already had money donated to where we’d have free loaner bikes for inner-city kids, and free helmets. Things to give kids opportunities: get ’em off the couch and get ’em healthy and get ’em off drugs.”