Parks and greenways: Bicentennial Park

Visitors to Maryville’s Bicentennial Park enjoy a beautiful spring day and activities like bicycling, dog walking and playing the guitar while observing social distancing guidelines.

A 45-mile proposed greenway, once completed, will connect the edge of the Smoky Mountains in Townsend to urban Knoxville by constructing and incorporating the path into already-established greenways in Blount and Knox counties.

“Imagine riding on a bicycle trail from Alcoa or Maryville to downtown Knoxville,” the project’s website states. “Or to Townsend and the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The planned section of greenway from Maryville to Townsend is more than 14 miles long.

“As the greenway leaves Maryville toward Townsend, it will run along Lamar Alexander Parkway, increasing access to businesses for people walking and bicycling,” the website states.

Proponents tout the economic impact of the $24 million greenway project, saying it would bring in an estimated $65 million during a 10-year period, with a return on investment of $2.66 for every $1 spent on construction and maintenance, The Daily Times has reported.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will build much of the 14-mile greenway as part of the widening of Alcoa Highway.

The section of Alcoa Highway between Singleton Station Road and Cherokee Trail will be widened to six lanes with a concrete median barrier wall, TDOT’s website states.

In Townsend, one Blount County high school group proposed a plan to make the route at the edge of the Smokies even better.

Heritage High School’s Future Farmers of America student organization proposed a plan to place benches, trees and dog-waste receptacles along the city’s greenways.

Mia Sullivan, an Heritage agriculture teacher, detailed the plans to the Townsend City Commission in January. She is looking to apply for two FFA grants totaling about $4,200 to purchase materials.

One grant would last a year and one a semester.

Sullivan lives in Townsend and uses the greenway frequently, often accompanied by her dog. From her experience as a greenway user came the idea to add shade to the greenways, places to rest, and have receptacles readily available for when Fido does his business.

“Our idea is to apply for one of these two grants (and use the money for) bench-building materials and work with our students and our advocates to build them as well as purchase native trees ... and then do a little bit of research and determine where the dog waste dispensers ... would be best used along the greenway,” she said.

The project may come up for more discussion and a vote during one of Townsend’s government meetings.

“As a city, I’d like to explore the possibilities and work with TDOT and see what we can come up with,” Commissioner Michael Talley said during the January meeting. “I think it’s a good project. I like it.”

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