Two organizations are speaking out against a TDOT proposal that could extend James White Parkway in south Knoxville.
The plan included three possible extension routes to help relieve traffic congestion and improve air quality.
Ijams Nature Center and the Legacy Park Foundation directors say they oppose those plans, because any extension would cut into Knoxville's urban wilderness and network of trails.
They do support improvements to the parkway's connection at Moody Avenue, to improve access.
TDOT will hold a public meeting to discuss the plans at 5:00 pm on December 6 at South-Doyle Middle School.
Release from Legacy Parks:
Legacy Parks Foundation took a deliberate step to protect Knoxville's new Urban Wilderness initiative and oppose major construction of the James White Parkway extension in South Knoxville with a resolution issued by the board of directors Wednesday, November 14th.
In a unanimous vote, the Legacy Parks Foundation board declared their support for the "no build option" for the Parkway and added a specific request to the Tennessee Department of Transportation to consider improvement to the connection of James White Parkway to Moody Avenue; improvement - including a complete streets approach - to Moody Avenue; and improvement to Chapman Highway pursuant to the Metropolitan Planning Commission's Chapman Highway Corridor Study.
The board's actions come in response to a recently released Parkway environmental impact statement by TDOT and the public hearing on the issue set for December 6th at 5 p.m at South Doyle Middle School.
"The board feels strongly that the parks, trails and greenspace we have in the heart of Knoxville are an incredible asset that should be protected and appreciated for the value they bring to the community. This Urban Wilderness we're creating in South Knoxville enriches neighborhoods, promotes community health, increases property values and makes Knoxville an attractive community for visitors, residents and businesses," Chad Youngblood, Legacy Parks Foundation Board Chair explained. "Traffic counts no longer support the need for the extension and its construction will have a lasting and detrimental effect on our entire community."
"Traffic counts no longer support the need for the extension and its construction will have a lasting and detrimental effect on our entire community."
Over the past three years Legacy Parks Foundation has led the efforts to create Knoxville's Urban Wilderness, the 1,000-forested acres along Knoxville's downtown waterfront that includes ten parks, more than 40 miles of recreational trails, four civil war sites, incredible views and unparalleled natural features. The proposed extension of the James White Parkway would directly intersect two large areas of the South Loop of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness and significantly degrade the recreational appeal of hundreds of acres already set aside for outdoor public use.
Only two miles from downtown, Knoxville's Urban Wilderness presents a unique urban playground for hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners. The first phase of the Urban Wilderness project is the newly opened South Loop Trail - 35 miles of natural surface trails connecting five parks and natural areas along with public and private lands creating an unparalleled outdoor venue. The trail connects Ijams Nature Center, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, William Hastie Natural Area and Marie Myers Park with trailheads and parking along the route.
The vision for Knoxville's Urban Wilderness includes the addition of the Battlefield Loop and the Connectors. The Battlefield Loop will provide an historic and recreational experience that would feature three Civil War forts and a city park: the River Bluff; Fort Stanley; Fort Higley; Loghaven; and Fort Dickerson Park. The Connector would be comprised of existing roads and sidewalks to allow for bike and pedestrian connection to both loops. Key elements of the Connector would be Island Home Park, Island Home Boulevard, Henley Street underpass, Blount Avenue and Chapman Highway.
Release from Ijams Nature Center:
Ijams Nature Center's mission is to encourage stewardship of the natural world, and preserving the integrity of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness is critical to furthering Ijams' mission.
Ijams has worked closely with Legacy Parks Foundation and the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club for several years to create greater outdoor opportunities for the community. Ijams now connects City parks, including Marie Meyers Park and William Hastie Natural Area. New trail connections also provide new opportunities for residents in the South Haven and Southside/Sevierville Pike neighborhoods to directly access parks on foot or on bike.
South Knoxville has changed dramatically since the James White Parkway Extension Project commenced in 1977. Preservation of the sector's richest natural assets is now recognized and supported by community members and local government as vital to the area's quality of life and economic growth. To this end, Ijams Nature Center opposes TDOT's proposed extension of the James White Parkway.
Ijams Nature Center supports the NO BUILD option, seeing the natural termination of the roadway as it exists today. However, Ijams' support of the NO BUILD option is made with the belief that necessary improvements be made to the connection of James White Parkway along Moody Avenue and other connecting roadways in the area. These improvements include a complete streets approach, pursuant to the MPC Chapman Highway Corridor Study that improves access to South Knoxville and Knox County for all (vehicles, bicycles, walkers, runners, the disabled, etc.).
Further to TDOT's recently released environmental impact statement on the James White Parkway Extension, a public hearing on this issue has been set for Thursday, December 6 at 5:00 p.m. at South Doyle Middle School. Ijams Nature Center encourages interested parties to attend.