Anyone who reads my blogging with any regularity knows much I love where Jon and make our home together. With our children, we live in a big, old, half-renovated Victorian located in the heart of an inner city, “transitional,” historic neighborhood near the downtown of a smallish, southern Appalachian town once infamously dubbed America’s “Scruffy Little City” - Knoxville, Tennessee.
Knoxville is a funky American city with a certain kudzu-encrusted, contradictory romanticism that’s hard to explain unless you’ve spent some time here. We are a southern city, yes, but one that largely rejected confederate secession during the Civil War. We may be known for our geographic proximity to troubling moments in American history like the Scopes Monkey Trial, but we’re even closer to the Highlander Research Center.
And there’s something creative in the water here – our neighborhoods produced the literary minds of Cormac McCarthy, James Agee, and a a young Frances Hodgson Burnett, who lived in a house rumored to have been located on the banks of the Tennessee River, and known by the fantastical name of “Vagabondia.” Dolly Parton got her start in Knoxville, while Hank Williams met his end here. Even Oscar winners Patricia Neal and Quentin Tarantino have their own Knoxville histories. And who can forget our favorite local moonshiner (well, he was from nearby Cocke County, but still…), Popcorn Sutton?
Our Scruffy Little City shocked the rest of the globe when we managed to pull off the pretty darn impressive 1982 World’s Fair, an event which left us with the iconically bizarre (and I mean that in the nicest sort of way) Sunsphere, yes, but which much MORE importantly, spawned the classic episode of The Simpsons in which Bart and Millhouse head off for the 1982 World’s Fair only to find that they are 20 years too late, and Knoxville’s Stories Sunsphere has been turned into, yes, “The Wigsphere.”
And then, of course, we can claim the legendary John Bean. Knowing that John Bean is a native Knoxvillian is pretty much reason enough in and of itself to want to raise one’s children here.
So yes, kudzu, moonshine, writers, music, and funny…we’ve got all that in spades.
But you know what Knoxville DOESN’T have enough of? Places for residents to walk, meander, amble, run, bike and skate – you get the idea. We are, like so many American cities of a certain size and age, a community that’s mostly lost its walkability. And we need to get it back.
To make this happen, we need the final influx of dollars that will turn our “Scruffy Little City” into the truly walkable, bikable community that it can be via a fully realized system of interconnected greenway parks. Without a real system of greenway parks, our older neighborhoods — like my own — remain unreachable from the newer, more afffluent ones — except by gas-powered vehicle, and that means that kids from different areas of town rarely end up meeting up just to run and play and bike together in the same parks, which is so important for a civil and diverse community.
But here’s the good news; thanks to an ambitious public-private partnership called the Knox Greenways Coalition, our community has made huge progress in completing the local Greenway Park System. And I know first hand how wonderful it is to be able to enjoy a Greenway park in my own ‘hood because our backyard happens to slope right down to First Creek Greenway. My kids and I walk and bike in our beautiful, inner city Greenway Park almost every day, but without that next “boost” of funds to take our quirky, wonderful and deserving historic city’s Greenway Park system to the next level, even the nice stretches of Greenway we’ve managed to fund and complete remain largely separated from the other stretches, in the other areas of the city, keeping our many diverse neighborhoods disconnected as they’ve been since urban planners in the 50s- through the early 70s decided it would be an AWESOME idea to carve Knoxville, Tennessee like an interstate dissected pie.
Like many other southern Appalachian communities, Knoxville has some serious public health and transportation problems that are in many ways all tangled up together. We lack sufficient sidewalks, and thus, our walkability score needs improvement. Our air quality is poor, and our neighbors suffer with unacceptably high rates of diabetes, malnutrition, asthma and heart disease — even among our children. But once we have a completed Knoxville and Knox County Greenway Parks system, local kids and their parents could actually walk or bike to school and work each day, improving our air quality (less traffic), saving family incomes for things like buying healthier food (less spent on gas and more for good stuff to eat) , providing critical exercise, bringing different people from different neighborhoods together, and increasing family time.
WE NEED TO GET OUR KNOXVILLE GREENWAY PARKS SYSTEM COMPLETED AND CONNECTED!!!
And here’s where Y’ALL COME IN: we can really, really do this if we all pitch in together, and I am so excited to have the chance to introduce this amazing and very real opportunity to my adopted hometown of Knoxville, TN.
So here’s how it works: Coca-Cola’s third annual Live Positively “America is Your Park” program is kicking off now with the chance for bloggers — you know, like me — to nominate their favorite local parks and park systems to receive LOTS OF MONEY to improve and grow. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the parks system that I want to see win is the “Knox Greenways Coalition” — a public-private partnership that plans and grows the local Knoxville and Knox County Greenways Parks system to the benefit of every one of us, no matter what area of town we happen to live in.
The park or park system who receives the most online votes in Coca Cola’s Live Positively “America is Your Park” program this year will receive ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! Second place winner gets $50,000 and the third place winner will receive $25,000.
Here’s how to vote: simply go to THIS SITE and look in the Tennessee state section for “Knox Greenways Coalition.” Then just hit the “vote” button. It’s is easy as can be!
But casting your OWN vote for Knox Greenways Coalition isn’t the only way to help us win; you can use all kinds of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to help garner votes too. All the info on how to use social media to help the Knox Greenways Coalition win tens of thousands of dollars is RIGHT HERE (Just click on “Campaign For Your Park”)
So let’s go do this thing together, shall we?
This is sponsored content from Babble and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions expressed in the post are my own and not those of Coca-Cola. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Only legal residents of the 50 U.S. (and D.C.) who are at least 13 years old and reside within the U.S. at the time of participation are eligible to vote for a Park. Participate on behalf of a Park by: July 15, 2012. The 3 most popular Parks will be offered a grant and there will be 1 Wild Card drawing at the end of the Contest to award an additional grant. To participate, for Official Rules, and complete details including grant descriptions, visit www.LivePositively.com/parks. Void where prohibited. Click here to see more of the discussion.