Dr. Craig Jarvis has practiced medicine in Maryville as a gastroenterologist since the 1980s. But now he’s practicing something else: public park curation.
A 10-acre parcel of land off Court Street in the city just north of the Vulcan Materials quarry is set to open in early 2021 and will be christened “Jarvis Park” after the man who bought and donated it for public use.
The untouched woods will be the first piece of what could someday become Maryville’s largest public park. City Manager Greg McClain told The Daily Times in a recent phone interview the plan was to start with the 10 acres and then add another 37 right next to it.
The property is old, preserving natural features that date back to the 1700s. It was once part of a land-granted farm that belonged to the Duncan family and more recently their ancestors, the Crawfords.
Jarvis and the Foothills Land Conservancy teamed up to buy the 10 acres that will open to the public in the coming months: Jarvis bought nine acres and FLC bought one acre — where Jim Cornett’s house stood until recently — for a total $490,000.
During the past three years, they turned around and gave it to the city.
More than namesakeFor Jarvis, the land is more than a purchase or a namesake.
Friday, he circumnavigated the entire property on foot, a walking stick in each hand, stopping frequently to point out towering white oaks growing there since America was a fledgling nation.
“A group of guys and myself have been working on this for a couple years,” he said, noting he’s been out to the property frequently, clearing paths and designating picnic areas and spots for trailside benches and marking the old trees with pink and orange ribbons.
He remembered how, when an old tree fell on his home property, he cut a section with his daughter who was about 12 at the time and analyzed the rings.
“I said, ‘Let’s go back,’” he recalled. “’Here’s the year you were born. Here’s the year I was born. Here’s your grandfather, 1921. Here’s 1900. Here’s the Civil War.’ I got back to about 1810.”
So do many trees at the park that will bear Jarvis’ name.
One of them he’s cordoned off: an extremely old, majestic white oak, still strong with limbs that block out the sky. He wants to build a split rail fence around it so visitors can marvel at it like he has since he started tending to the property.
“It’s the arborist’s dream,” he said. “It’s just the perfect tree.”
In many ways, it’s the perfect spot of land, too. Quiet, serene, ideal for social distancing. A small stream, Duncan Branch, borders the 10 acres. Bamboo shoots grow beside the water and just beyond, rolling farmland hills, making it easy to believe the area still belongs to the 18th century.
Soccer and communityThough Jarvis still works at his Maryville offices around three days a week, he’s semi-retired.
“I’m easing myself out of it,” he said. Lately, he’s been spending a lot of time crafting a vision for the park’s future.
He has four children — one of them a senior a Maryville High School — and remembers days when he coached his kids and others in recreational soccer. When the park expands beyond the initial 10 acres, there are plans to put soccer fields in, according to Jarvis and McClain.
Jarvis, who said he was never a “jock” but wanted to coach something after he moved to Bount County, started working with youth soccer teams in the 1990s, before the sport really started to spread from South America and Europe.
“In those days, the under-5, under-6 kids would play on a 100-yard standard soccer field,” he said, laughing. Things have changed since he worked with teams on fields right across from Vulcan, but he hopes the park project will continue local enthusiasm for the sport in the coming years.
Between recreational coaching, a love of hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a successful medical career and a close relationship with the city’s community, Jarvis explained giving back with the park just made sense.
“Maryville’s been good to me,” he said.
Jarvis’ donated property just minutes outside the city center will be something residents can enjoy for the indefinite future. Foothills Land Conservancy Director Bill Clabough said all 47 acres of the evolving park have conservancy easements — legal protections that limit commercial and residential development.
“It’s a great project,” Clabough said by phone recently. “The (FLC) board was really appreciative of an opportunity to help Dr. Jarvis and secure (the land) for the city. We were glad to be a partner and look forward to the other piece of property being turned into a big park.”
FLC — which with Jarvis pitched the need for more open space to the City Council nearly four years ago — helped Maryville pay for that other piece, pitching in $140,000 plus closing costs. It cost a total $880,000, McClain said.
The parking lot going in on Court Street may be done by December, McClain said, and the trails could open soon after. He added Jarvis “really pushed hard to make it work.”