Viewing greenways as a strategic economic and community investment, Knox County, Tennessee, called on Gresham Smith to establish a clear vision for an expansion of its existing park and trail system. Nestled in the Great Valley of East Tennessee and just north of the Great Smoky Mountains, Knox County is home to the state’s third-largest city. Capitalizing on community assets and expanding the existing greenway system can not only benefit residents’ quality of life, but also bring a positive economic impact to the region. After about a year’s worth of research and planning, Gresham Smith (in partnership with IBI Placemaking) completed the Knox County Greenway Corridor Study, establishing a framework of greenways across five key corridors. The designated corridors span through rural and urban parts of Knox County, increasing connectivity and accessibility for all residents to the places they live, work, learn and play. The recommendations from the study will be used by Knox County to help assist in accessing funding to build future greenways.
miles of proposed greenway
rounds of community meetings
Engaging the CommunityOver the past decade, Knox County has invested in the research and development of new greenways, with many paths being implemented across the county. As part of this study, our team asked residents what they felt was lacking in the existing community parks, trails and greenways. Residents indicated a need for connectivity to schools, neighborhoods, businesses and natural areas. Given this feedback, our team created a plan with more than 65 miles of proposed trails, creating a well-connected network across the five identified corridors.
Reimagining Existing AssetsAlready a designated blueway, Beaver Creek is an underutilized natural asset in Knox County. The creek runs across the county, spanning two of the five designated corridors of the study. Increasing access and creating recreational areas along Beaver Creek is a critical piece of the study, as the creek provides a beautiful landscape. Many of the routes in both the Beaver Creek West and East corridors run parallel to the creek, creating an ideal recreational area where residents and visitors can walk, bike, rollerblade or kayak all in the same area.
Access for AllKnox County has a variety of communities that differ in population size, demographics, and income levels. While the study does address the needs for a variety of transportation options in high-trafficked areas, it also focuses on increasing access for residents in rural communities. Greenways provide a host of health and wellness benefits including increasing rates of physical activity, improving mental health outcomes and reducing chronic disease in user populations. Parks and greenways also have a long history of anchoring residential development and spurring the revitalization or development of commercial districts, ultimately increasing property values for local residents. Considering these factors in their designs, our team identified a phased plan of project prioritization to increase access for Knox County residents who need it most.
Foundation for Future InvestmentThe tourism sector continues to be a major economic driver across Tennessee, especially in Knox County. In fact, tourism spending in Knox County totaled $1.2 billion in 2018 and created more than 10,500 jobs. Building on existing greenways and parks, the proposed routes from the Knox County Greenways Corridor Study prepare the county for growth in recreational tourism. Many of the corridors span through rivers, lakes, creeks and mountain ridges, making them attractive for out-of-town guests to visit.
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