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602 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
It’s a shame to see an otherwise valid cause be misrepresented in such a way that a “supporting” article actually hurts its chances of ever happening. Such is the case of “Elitist Mountain Bikers” [Letters to the Editor, Aug. 23, 2012].
I am in complete agreement that Knoxville needs more greenways. All the benefits mentioned in the letter are spot-on. The greenways that we do have are nice, peaceful escape areas that are enjoyed by many people from a wide and varied background. But (there would have to be a “but”), to place the blame for a lack of greenway expansion on “wealthy, white males on mountain bikes” is ignorant at best and racist at its worst. The main argument presented seems to be the anger at the fact that Knoxville now has an extra 15 miles of mountain bike trails yet is unable to expand existing greenways by even a mile. Instead of placing the blame on a single demographic of WWMoMB, it would further the cause of greenways more by just realizing the basic facts: The new Legacy Parks trails are entirely contained within an existing 400-acre area. These trails loop around each other in such a way that 15 miles can be covered within a relatively small space. The biggest bonus is land that is already controlled by Legacy Parks. In comparison, just one mile of greenway is a meandering straight line where its beginning and ending points will be—you guessed it—about one mile apart. This means that untold numbers of property owners will need to sell, lease, or give easements on their land. It’s an all-or-nothing process, as even one holdout will stop the entire project. Trying to get 30 or so unrelated people to unite in one such cause is not impossible, but it’s about as close to impossible as you can get. This is the single biggest reason why we do not have a more extensive greenway system. This is where most efforts should be directed if we want to expand our greenways.
Beyond that, there are many logical and non-prejudicial reasons why we have mountain-bike trails instead of expanded greenways. Bike trails are dirt and some gravel with a few wooden bridges and features. Trails can be only a foot or two wide in places and generally follow the contour of the land. The majority of the cost of construction is in the labor needed to clear the trails. In contrast, the greenway is a wide, asphalt path that must remain fairly level with larger bridges to cross creeks and uneven ground. The cost to construct each foot of greenway has to be many times the cost of a bike trail without even considering the money needed to secure the land use.
In the meantime:
1. Enjoy the greenways that we have without trying to spoil the public areas enjoyed by others.
2. For under $100 you can buy a decent used mountain bike and take advantage of those 15 miles of trails yourself.
3. You can do the above even if you are not (A) wealthy, (B) white, or (C) male. Odds are that you’ll find others out there enjoying the trails who look just like you.