What does Knoxville really need? Everybody’s got an opinion, as we’ve discovered each week in our What Knoxville Needs column. While some of the ideas are a bit silly, others are actually quite reasonable—in fact, downright smart. So, as we begin a new year, we decided to once again take some of these suggestions and present them directly to the civic leaders who might actually do something about them. And then we asked these decision-makers: How about it? Here are their answers.
“Knoxville really needs to come into its own. We no longer need to compare ourselves to nearby cities. We’re a pretty damn sweet city. Look at our downtown area—we’re hustling and bustling. Look to our neighborhoods radiating from downtown, each unique, oozing history and character. As a whole, we are home to vibrant music, art, academic, business, blue-collar, white-collar communities that are all held together by a lil’ scruffy.”
—R. Bentley Marlow, Mechanicsville resident
Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville:
We’re very passionate about changing that desire, or changing that habit because Knoxville really has come into its own. We have a vibrant music, entertainment, arts and culture scene. We have the complete outdoor adventure opportunity for people who visit or live in Knoxville. We [at Visit Knoxville] don’t compare ourselves to other destinations because we don’t have to. I think that that is a huge opportunity for us as a whole community to continue to learn more about what we already have and where that could go and what that means to visitors and what that means to us as a community. I think sometimes, when people get caught up in comparing their home to someone else’s, it’s just because sometimes they just don’t know.
“I always thought Knoxville needed a community garden downtown for the urban dwellers with a green thumb. It’s a great way to generate a sense of community, meet your neighbors, and at the same time grow fresh produce!”
—Jessica Burke of Union Jack’s English Pub
“More secret garden areas to be discovered along the byways of downtown, tucked here and there—by private residents, UT horticulture students, the city? The old-fashioned twirl and thrum of ivy and hydrangea do the heart (and imagination) so much better than concrete and asphalt, but how to break through all that into green?”
—Linda Parsons Marion, the poet gardener
Kasey Krouse, urban forester, City of Knoxville:
The City of Knoxville is committed to expanding greenspace and tree canopy in downtown Knoxville. Research agrees with you, in that greenspace provides a wealth of social and economic benefits including building a sense of community. The City currently has the farmers market on Market Square that offers many of the same benefits that you described. One of challenges with creating a community garden is making sure the facility is maintained and finding a suitable space to locate a garden with plenty of sunlight.
During a recent visit to Milwaukee, Wis., I came across a very organized group of volunteers that were planting beans and tomatoes in front of a business in downtown. The garden was maintained by a group of downtown dwellers and was very tastefully installed to fit the overall downtown landscaping. If suitable spots in and around downtown could be found, we would certainly be happy to work with local residents interested in something like that. In addition, the city continues to expand bike trails and routes which will open up more access to community gardens and greenspace around the downtown area. We are also looking at options for opening up the ribbon of greenspace on South Central Street alongside James White Parkway for a small park or other recreational uses.
“Knoxville really needs comprehensive sex education in its middle schools and high schools so that 25 percent of Tennessean women don’t live in poverty; so that nearly 25 percent of alternative high school students aren’t teenage mothers; so that we increase the quality of life of Tennesseans by increasing the number of adults with college degrees and decreasing the number of children raised in or slightly above poverty.”
—Brianna Rader, co-founder of the University of Tennessee’s Sex Week
Melissa Ogden, Knox County Schools director of public affairs:
We follow the state curriculum.
“What we really need is an organization to help homeless folks in Knoxville with pets when they are struggling! A friend and I recently helped a person who found herself short-term homeless. She was trying to find a new place to live with her pet, sleeping on couches and boarding her dog until she ran out of money to even do that. When we stepped up to foster, it was obvious she was grateful and a good person. I appreciate that she stood by her dog (a senior). This is not the first time someone came to my dog network with a situation where help/shelter with a pet was needed. Funny they should turn to me, a jobless redhead who is fostering a blind dog and trying to make ends meet herself. It kinda makes one wonder why our city doesn’t have an agency here to offer help?! It’s an interesting situation that a dog friend in Nashville has addressed, called SAFPAW. Everyone should go volunteer or just reach out and help someone who needs it because Knoxville has not addressed this issue. So it’s up to concerned individuals to help. Oh, by the way, you can also go “like” my dog effort on Facebook—TRU Dog Network. This redhead cared enough to start her own grassroots effort to help dogs, no pay of course. Woof! ”
—Tinah Utsman, founder of the TRU Dog Network on Facebook
Amy Johnston, Director of Outreach for Young-Williams Animal Center:
We do get these requests periodically and we handle them on an individual basis. It is space dependent, but we have no formal program due to our high occupancy levels. Typically we get, on average, 40 animals a day, and our capacity is 500 animals. Fortunately those numbers continue to drop every year and our adoption numbers are up, but we are still looking at 14,000 animal intakes for 2013. We wish we could do more and hopefully one day, if our intake continues to go down, we will be able to help more. The root of the overall problem is lack of spay and neuter in our community.
“Knoxville needs a harbor to take advantage of the river as a transportation resource, promoting existing industry and enticing new investment, particularly involving large sums of goods (i.e., money).”
Bob Whetsel, director of redevelopment for the City of Knoxville:
Knoxville has used the river as a transportation resource since its founding in the 18th century. However, it did not become a very dependable resource until the establishment of the TVA lake and lock system in the 1930s. By that time, the railroad had come to dominate the passenger and freight business, and with the advent of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s passenger and freight volumes moved to the road system. There are still a few businesses in Knoxville that receive bulk shipments from barge traffic along the river, but the most noticeable movement of boats, people and money happens every fall when the Vol Navy comes to town.
A major goal of the South Waterfront Redevelopment effort is to place many abandoned or underutilized industrial sites that were formerly serviced by river traffic into use again as mixed-use urban development. This gives us the chance to enhance the river’s recreational potential, with new boat launches for kayaks and canoes and other amenities. At the same time, there are still port facilities at the Forks of the River Industrial Park and a few other sites in the city along the river that can be used for the delivery of goods. The biggest issue facing river transportation for the region is the condition and potential rehabilitation of the Chickamauga lock located in Chattanooga, which is the responsibility of the federal government.
“The purchase of alcohol should be permitted at UT football games.”
—Delaney McCann, nursing student, Vol fan
Karen Simsen, University of Tennessee Media Relations:
It is university policy that we do not sell alcohol on campus at public events. It is the majority practice among our SEC peers.
“What I would really like to see is rock climbing in Mead’s Quarry. Ijams allows mountain biking—which, by the way has boosted Knoxville’s outdoor status—yet climbing is not permitted. Here is a resource that could be tapped to create another great outdoor recreational opportunity right here in town. Both bouldering and rock climbing could be developed there safely if the right amount of effort went into it.”
—Kelly Brown, owner/operator at Bower Bird Sculpture and avid climber
Paul James, Executive Director, Ijams Nature Center:
Yes, Ijams’ unique, natural, and post-industrial landscape offers some wonderful rock-climbing opportunities. Ijams is currently developing some ideas with River Sports Outfitters Climbing Team and UT’s outdoor program with the view to launch programming next spring. Particularly, the imposing bluffs at Mead’s Quarry and the sheer Tennessee Marble walls at Ross Marble Quarry offer some amazing opportunities to get outdoors, explore, and climb just two miles from downtown. We’ll be offering more bouldering experiences too. Stay tuned!
“A stoplight on Papermill outside the entry to McKay [Used Books, CDs, Movies and More.] You shouldn’t have to take your life in your hands or expect West Knoxville drivers to suddenly become kindly to make a left hand turn into McKay; sometimes 30 or 40 cars will go by before someone lets you turn. Or, at the very least, a couple of stop signs.”
—Frances Hall, West High graduate and used-manga fan
William Cole, City of Knoxville Traffic Engineering Department:
The City of Knoxville Traffic Engineering Division evaluates intersections for traffic signal installation once every two years. We usually investigate around 40 locations and create a ranked list, called the signal index, based on traffic volume and crashes that could be improved with a signal. We have to evaluate the trade-offs before we decide to install a traffic signal. Signals reduce delays on the side street, but they increase delays on the main street and can increase delays on all streets at off-peak times. Also, signals reduce angle crashes but increase rear-end crashes. In the signal-index process, the traffic is counted on each leg of the intersection and the crashes are investigated. This data is then used to determine which locations would benefit most from our budget for new signals. This location [on Papermill] will be investigated when that index is put together in early 2014.
“What Knoxville really needs is to drop its inferiority complex to other cities in Tennessee. Memphis has better barbecue, but there is plenty of good food here. Nashville has the Music City thing going, but they are also infested with state politicians and swarming with lobbyists. Our beautiful home in the valley has the amenities of a bigger city and the charm of a smaller town. We are right to be proud of our humility, but we shouldn’t overlook our appeal.”
—Rick Tate, owner, the Tate Group; CFO, the Tate Estate
Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville:
We are moving in this direction a lot with our new campaign. One of the key things I think is valuable to Knoxville and valuable about Knoxville is its variety. Knoxville is so much more than [one thing]. Being the home of just one thing is not as meaningful in the new world as maybe some people think it is. What Knoxville is is a variety of experiences, and we’re trying to show that through the way we market and the way we tell the story of Knoxville. Knoxville isn’t about any one thing. We’ve got a lot of things. We’ve got a rich arts and culture scene. We have a symphony, we have an opera. You can canoe, you can paddleboard right out of downtown. You can go play a three-par golf course right out of downtown and get right back. We have a rich heritage tourism. We have all of the war sites, all the historic homes that compete with some of the destinations that people like to throw out there like Savannah. It is the variety of Knoxville and the people in Knoxville that make it what it is.