G&O Rail-with-Trail

Legacy Parks Executive Director Carol Evans recently announced a new three-mile multi-use trail to be built along the G&O Railway in South Knoxville from Chapman Highway to Mead’s Quarry and the South Loop Trails of the Urban Wilderness.

“Just like New York’s High Line and Atlanta’s BeltLine, this trail can be just as iconic for Knoxville,” she said.

Working with Pete and Linda Claussen of Gulf & Ohio Railways, the new trail will run adjacent to the working tracks – a ‘Rail with Trail’ as opposed to a ‘Rail to Trail’ – which turns abandoned railways to trails. The G&O trail will provide both a commuter and a recreational route and is another key connection in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

In addition to the recreation benefits, the new trail should revitalize some areas that have been vacant and underdeveloped. “What we’re going to see is neighborhoods connected, businesses connected, businesses that incubate along the rail line because people will love to sit on a patio and bike from spot to spot,” Evans said.

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Outdoor Knox web pic

Outdoor Knoxville

Outdoor Knoxville is an initiative to make Knoxville’s incredible natural and recreation assets an economic driver for our region. Led by Legacy Parks, the effort aims to increase our outdoor amenities, create better access to recreational areas, and promote greater participation in outdoor activities.

Health and quality of life are now key determining factors in where people and businesses choose to locate. Because of our amazing resources and outdoor recreation opportunities, we can compete with any area in the region, and are drawing visitors from around the world and attracting businesses and services.

The Key Anchors of the Outdoor Knoxville Initiative

Comprehensive information about our outdoors and activities
This robust, comprehensive website lists all recreational activities, venues, organizations, events, and resources in East Tennessee. Updated daily, the site includes a calendar of activities, contact information, photos, and personal experiences.

A place to gather and get out and play

The Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center
Adjacent to downtown, the Tennessee River, and the Neyland Greenway, the Outdoor Adventure Center provides a central location for outdoor activities, events, product demonstrations and rentals, and meeting space, and is also the home of Legacy Parks Foundation.

Knoxville’s Outdoor Assets

Knoxville has exceptional natural amenities – rivers and lakes, miles of trails and greenways, abundant parks and open space – and is also the hub of a region rich in outdoor recreational opportunities. Over the last several years Knoxville has become a destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts and the number of events has increased significantly. With a national marathon, adventure race, mountain bike race, and paddleboard race, we certainly live up to the hype. The calendar lists up to 50 events each week.

At the foot of the Smoky Mountains and the crossroads of I-75 and I-40, Knoxville is easily accessible and has myriad outdoor opportunities within a two-hour drive.

In the Knoxville metropolitan area, nearly 150 miles of paved and natural trails are available for recreation and transportation.

Parks and Open Space
Over 5,000 acres of forest, farm, and parkland is preserved in the area. This includes city, county, and state land, plus private easements allowing public use.

Lakes and Rivers
With the French Broad and Holston rivers coming together to form the Tennessee River that runs through Knox County, water activities are nearby any location in the area. Several lakes formed by TVA offer additional opportunities for paddling, boating, fishing, and other water sports. Legacy Parks is actively working to increase public access to our three rivers.

Outdoor Resources
Outdoor activities and our abundant assets have fostered the creation of several equipment and adventure companies. The area boasts 14 bike shops, 12 outfitters and event directors, and 20 other outdoor retailers offering all the necessary gear and encouragement for enjoying outdoor activities.

Clubs and Organizations
Outdoor Knoxville collaborates with many clubs and organizations to facilitate outdoor experiences and enhance amenities. Over 30 outdoor clubs and a large number of Meetup Groups make sure activities are available for every skill and interest. From paddling to pedaling and everything in between, there is something for everyone.

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Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness

MeadsQuarryFall-slideKnoxville’s Urban Wilderness, a recreational, cultural, and historic preservation initiative championed by Legacy Parks Foundation, incorporates 1,000 forested acres along downtown’s south waterfront. It creates an exceptional recreation and historic corridor inviting residents and visitors to experience the special character-defining assets of our city. With nearly 50 miles of multi-use trails, 10 parks, four civil war sites, incredible views, and unparalleled natural features, this unique area provides a premiere outdoor experience.

The Urban Wilderness is an incredible economic benefit to the community. Over $6 million in recent real estate transactions can be attributed directly to homeowners who want to live near trails. A 2015 study by UT’s Baker Center reports $14 million in current economic benefit from the Urban Wilderness. As it becomes a regional draw that benefit increase to $26 million, and as a national destination the benefits exceed $51 million.

Two primary areas make up Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness – the South Loop Trails and the proposed Battlefield Loop on the western edge – connected by a corridor of trails and greenways as a part of Knoxville’s south waterfront development plan.


South Loop Trails

Forks of the RiverThe South Loop Trails offer a unique urban playground for mountain bikers, trail runners, and casual hikers. Almost 50 miles of natural surface trails connect five parks and natural areas with public and private land creating exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities. The 12.5-mile main loop trail connects Ijams Nature Center, Ross Marble and Mead’s Quarries, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, William Hastie Natural Area, and Marie Myers Park. An additional 35+ miles of secondary trails with varying terrain lead off the main trail. Urban Wilderness South Loop Map

Scheduling Events on the South Loop Trails
Any event scheduled on the South Loop Trail system must be approved in advance by Legacy Parks Foundation. Please use this South Loop Event Request.

Ijams Nature Center
Ijams Nature Center, Mead’s, and Ross Marble Quarries – Ijams’ 300 acres of protected wildlife habitat and natural areas connect to the Mead’s Quarry and Ross Marble Quarry trails. Trails of shale and soil lead through a section of discarded limestone from the quarry creating a unique trail and visual experience. The lakefront trail features an observation area with expansive views of Mead’s Quarry Lake. Ijams/Quarry Trail Map

William Hastie and Marie Myers
William Hastie Natural Area – Several miles of natural trails contain a wide array of surfaces and unique challenges through this heavily forested property. William Hastie connects to Ross Marble Quarry on a flowing trail through Marie Myers Park. Hastie/Marie Myers Trail Map

Anderson School Trails
The trails beginning at Anderson School descend through a wooded valley over an easy grade into the Forks of the River WMA. The trail crosses private property made accessible by easements granted by the landowners, so please respect the private property and stay on the trail. Look for wood ducks and the occasional Great Blue Heron in the pond. Anderson School Trail Map

Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area
The trail system within the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area combines trails created over time by wildlife and hunters with those constructed more recently by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club. The paved Will Skelton Greenway is also found within the WMA along the river boundary and connects the WMA to both Ijams Nature Center and the natural surface trails. Multiple trails are located within the WMA, all of varying degrees of difficulty, views, and topography. The main route begins on the paved Will Skelton Greenway, continues along the river’s edge and meanders through forests and fields. The internal trails pass through open fields, hardwood forests, and hedgerows — all home to an abundance of wildlife and songbird activity. NOTE: As of July 1, 2015, a high-impact user fee is required to access the interior trails at Forks of the River. However, the perimeter Whaley Trail (formerly Bluff, Augie’s Run, and Dozer) from the Will Skelton Greenway to the Burnett Creek parking area, is exempt from the fee.

Please be aware that the WMA is an active hunting and habitat conservation area managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. Special conditions apply to this property and are found at the link below. The TWRA works collaboratively with Legacy Parks, the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, and Knoxville and Knox County Parks Departments to provide for non-motorized, recreational mixed-use within the WMA. Walking, running, and biking on the paved Will Skelton Greenway is permissible year-round. Be aware that hunting is allowed in the fields next to the greenway during legal hunting seasons. Walking, running, and biking is permitted on the unpaved trails with certain restrictions. Forks of the River Trail Map

More information about TWRA, including a complete list of regulations, is available at

For more information and directions to trailheads, visit


Battlefield Loop

Fort DickersonParkUnder development is the Battlefield Loop section of the Urban Wilderness that will provide a historic element to the recreational experience. The Battlefield Loop includes three civil war forts, a civil war battlesite and acres of beautiful forests and views. These culturally and historically important sites will eventually be linked to the south waterfront development and the South Loop Trails to complete Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

Armstrong’s Hill
This 70-acre tract on Knoxville’s south river bluff, originally slated for condominium development, was preserved by Legacy Parks and is significant as the site of the Battle of Armstrong’s Hill, a key Civil War conflict in defense of Knoxville. Legacy Parks recently conveyed the property to the City of Knoxville for a public park.

Fort Dickerson
Within an 85-acre city park, Fort Dickerson is one of the best-preserved earthen forts from the Civil War era. Just across the river from downtown Knoxville, Fort Dickerson Park boasts views of the Great Smoky Mountains to the south, the ridges beyond Fountain City to the north, and contains the beautiful 350-feet deep quarry.

High Ground Park
Owned by the Aslan Foundation, this lush, 95-acre tract is rich with an abundance of mature hardwoods, native species, and the site of Fort Higley, the western anchor of the Federal line protecting the city from Confederate troops. It is open to the public, dusk to dawn.

Fort Stanley
A wooded 22-acre parcel off Chapman Highway includes both Fort Stanley where Union troops protected the southern approaches to Knoxville, and Gobbler’s Knob, the tallest and closest hill to downtown Knoxville, rising 360 feet above the river. It is currently owned by the Aslan Foundation and not yet restored or open to the public.


Wood Property

The recent acquisition of 100 acres, generously donated by the Wood family to Legacy Parks, will provide a key connection from the Urban Wilderness South Loop Trail System to nearby neighborhoods and South Doyle Middle School and its Outdoor Classroom. Plans for the property call for a variety of trails and features including a one-mile introductory mountain bike trail for riders of all ages, three-and-a-half miles of mixed-use trails with two overlooks, a bridge over Redbud Road, and the Bell Built downhill trail for which Knoxville won the national grant.

Working in collaboration with the City of Knoxville and Knox County, Legacy Parks will continue to assemble the lands, funds, and partners to complete Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. To contribute to the effort, contact or Become a Friend of Legacy Parks.

Partners on Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness include the Tennessee Department of Tourism, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, Knox County, City of Knoxville, Knox Heritage, Foothills Land Conservancy, The Civil War Alliance, The Civil War Roundtable, The East Tennessee Community Design Center, the McClung Museum, and the Center for Excellence for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University.


Parkwest Urban Wilderness Patch

parkwest patchHike all 42 miles of trail in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness’ South Loop and earn the new Parkwest Urban Wilderness Patch! Start at one of four trailheads — Ijams Nature Center, William Hastie Natural Area, Anderson School, or Forks of the River. The trail system features a variety of terrain from rocky outcrops to rolling fields and farmland with trails that range from easy to more difficult. A pocket-sized trail map is available at local shops and at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center or use the links above to download and print maps.

Enjoy the changing colors along the trails while keeping track of your miles trekked on the Trail Checklist. Once you’ve completed all the trails, submit the form along with a check or credit card payment of $10 to Legacy Parks Foundation to receive the Parkwest Urban Wilderness Patch and a certificate.

Congratulations to those who have hiked all the trails and are now members of the Parkwest Urban Wilderness Club!

Amy Brown-Oakley, Adam Caraco, Arthur Caraco, Jeffrey Groah, Terry Jenkins, Steve Magocs, Richard Newman, Tedi Newman, Ashley Rex

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Get Out & Play! Bike Rentals

BikeRental-Announcement-news 2Knoxville is known as a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” and a new partnership makes rental bikes available at two locations downtown to take advantage of that friendliness in the city center. Legacy Parks Foundation, Regions Bank, Billy Lush Board Shop, and Visit Knoxville provide Get Out & Play! bike rentals at the Outdoor Adventure Center (900 Volunteer Landing) and the Knoxville Visitors Center (301 S. Gay Street). Other locations will be added soon.

A new map outlines three distinct routes in the downtown area and highlights locations including World’s Fair Park, Market Square, parks, museums, UT, and other points of interest.

Two-hour rentals cost $19 for adults, $15 for teachers and military personnel, and $12 for youth under 17. Rentals are available online at or at the Adventure Center and Visitors Center.

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Increasing Access to Our Rivers

OKF-GroupPaddleLegacy Parks is helping to increase public access along the Holston and French Broad rivers, the two that form the Tennessee River. Our goal is to create free, public river access at five-to-seven mile intervals from Douglas and Cherokee lakes to downtown Knoxville. In partnership with Tennessee State Parks, TVA, TWRA, and local governments, Legacy Parks will focus on access in Knox and Sevier Counties. Preliminary research indicates that four additional access points are needed along both rivers. The four access points in the current plan are:

New access south of Highway 66 bridge

New or improved access at the Forks of the River Industrial Park section

Improvements to Claussen’s Landing

New access across from Huffaker Ferry

Several aspects of the project are underway or in the planning stages. Legacy Parks will assist with confirming key access points, meeting with landowners and stakeholders, developing and securing purchase and/or lease agreements, funding, and acquisition of property.


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Harrell Road

Harrell Road Stormwater Park

Knox County’s new Harrell Road Park project converted a derelict tract of land into a sustainable, passive public park incorporating best practices in stormwater management and providing a classic example of green infrastructure techniques.

In 2009 Legacy Parks Foundation was given an abandoned tract of land by a local developer. The property, located at 7221 Harrell Road in northeast Knox County, was a remnant from previous development and consisted of floodplain along Beaver Creek that had been used for soil mining and a barrow pit. It was mostly exposed clay and scrub growth and was considered unbuildable. Forming a partnership with Knox County Stormwater Management and Knox County Parks and Recreation, Legacy Parks received a $5,000 grant for a concept plan by the East Tennessee Community Design Center. After several public meetings the concept plan was approved and work began on the county’s first stormwater management park.

The park consists of both naturally occurring and manmade wetlands, lowlands, and ridges. A rain garden was constructed to capture runoff from the parking lot that features porous asphalt, pervious concrete, and pavers (which, unlike paved surfaces, allow some water to be absorbed back into the earth). more details

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Seven Islands WMA

Seven Islands State Birding Park

Seven Islands is the East Tennessee region’s largest wildlife sanctuary with more than 360 acres of forests and fields, eight miles of natural trails and greenway, access to the French Broad River, and spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains and rolling farmlands. Legacy Parks Foundation managed Seven Islands before turning it over to the State of Tennessee to become the 56th state park and first official State Birding Park.

Situated on the eastern edge of Knox County, Seven Islands features a rich natural habitat with over 180 species of birds including a pair of nesting bald eagles. The French Broad River borders the park and holds over 50 species of fish – more varieties than found on the entire European continent. Hiking trails wind up the ridges and down to the waterfront. A non-motorized boat launch allows easy access to the river.

Seven Islands State Birding Park is a model for observing how well-established land management practices can both protect and reestablish the native wildlife in an area. Seven Islands has a strong academic and research partnership as a field school for the University of Tennessee. more details

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Oates View 17

Land Conservation

Working in collaboration with Foothills Land Conservancy, Legacy Parks Foundation has helped permanently protect nearly 1,000 acres of forest and farmland in East Tennessee. The 500-acre Bluff Mountain in Sevier County, farms in Blount and Knox counties, two future park sites and a historic spot along Beaver Creek will forever remain in their current natural condition through the establishment of conservation easements on the properties.

A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows the property owner to continue to own and use their land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs. Foothills Land Conservancy and Legacy Parks Foundation’s role is to assure that the terms of the easement are followed on a long-term basis. For more information about conservation easements contact

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Path thru the trees


Trails are a natural amenity in East Tennessee. Our ridges and valleys, lush forests, and abundant waterways can easily be explored and appreciated on simple, multi-use trails. Legacy Parks is working to establish recreational trails throughout East Tennessee, including a fifteen-mile equestrian trail in east Knox County.

We are grateful to Jack Rose, Jim McCormick, and Kenneth Ross for sharing their beautiful photography with all of us.

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