KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 5, 2015) – Today, the Lakeshore Park Board unveiled its plans to enlarge, enhance and beautify the 185-acre public park. The Lakeshore Park Board also announced the launch of a major capital campaign to fund park improvements, with a first phase goal of $25 million and a long- term goal of $50 million.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero lauded the gift revealed at the kickoff event and the ongoing public-private collaboration that is enabling Lakeshore Park to expand its unique, historic role.
“Lakeshore Park is one of the most beautiful places in East Tennessee, and it’s exciting to see it come full circle,” Mayor Rogero said. “It once was pristine open land, known for its amazing vistas overlooking the Tennessee River. Then, for more than a century, it was a special place where mental-health professionals provided care to those in need. And now, it’s once again open land for public use, available for everyone to enjoy.”
The first new project funded by the capital campaign is the state-of-the-art, fully accessible Hank Rappé Playground, which opened on September 11, 2015. Other first phase improvement highlights at Lakeshore Park include:
- Walking Trail – construction of two more miles of the existing walking trail, giving trail users alternate routes and the option of choosing more or less challenging routes. New trail areas will include a trail along Fourth Creek, an extension of the Lyons View trail through the gardens area, and trails leading to the center of the park. Most of the trails will be lighted, and the planned hours of operation are 5am to 10pm, to ensure that this valuable recreational resource is available to everyone. Long-term plans call for eight miles of walking trails with varying degrees of difficulty through different areas of the park.
- Canoe/Kayak Launch – a pier and concrete ramp for launching small, non-motorized vessels into Fourth Creek, with adjacent parking, a boat wash, showers and picnic areas and trail enhancements.
- River Walk – a quiet, wooded river overlook adjacent to the riverfront section of the trail, with a seating area and cantilevered deck extending over the marsh and long lagoon to the river’s edge.
- Lakeshore Hall & Pavilion – a year-round facility in the center of the park, which includes the original Lakeshore Chapel, updated to modern standards, and adjoining wings with a multi-purpose room, catering kitchen, restrooms and changing rooms. Lakeshore Hall will be suitable for weddings, funerals, musical performances, theatrical performances, meetings, dinners, exhibits, classes, social events and many other uses. For larger events, the Hall can be used in connection with the Lakeshore Pavilion, an open pavilion with restroom facilities that faces Lakeshore Hall across a central square and gardens.
- Recreation Fields — large central recreation fields will be open to the public for baseball, soccer, lacrosse and other activities. The fields will also be available for large special events.
- River Pavilion — a large, open pavilion that will accommodate over two hundred people at seated events. It provides river and mountain views and includes a fireplace, catering kitchen and restrooms.
- Hilltop Gardens — landscaped gardens, garden structures, terraces and a scenic overlook on the prominent hilltop that gave “Lyons View” its name.
- Other Improvements — including additional picnic pavilions, restrooms, open fields, gardens, playgrounds, parking and more.
“Lakeshore Park is a community asset. It’s a place for everyone in the region to gather for sports and recreation,” said Whitney Haslam Johnson, Director of Brand and Customer Experience for Pilot Flying J. “It has been a really special place for our company and team members, as well. Not only does it align with our company’s health and wellness initiatives, it has been a place we’ve enjoyed for business events over the years. This $15 million gift helps to ensure that families, groups and organizations will have a space to gather to celebrate, and enjoy the incredible beauty of East Tennessee. “
“We are excited about this first step in the expansion plan coming to life,” said Cardin Bradley, Director of Development. “We are grateful for the Haslam family and Pilot Flying J’s ongoing support over the years, and their contributions are an investment in the future of our community.”
“The ability to develop a large, centrally located public park with something for everyone is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community,” said Bradley, “particularly on one of the most beautiful sites in the City.”
This extraordinary property has a long and rich history for the region. For more than 125 years, the state mental health hospital stood on the site. Lakeshore Park recognizes and honors the important work in mental health care that was administered on the property. The City of Knoxville has provided substantial infrastructure for the park, but all park improvements, including the baseball fields, soccer fields, playgrounds and walking trail, have been funded through contributions from businesses, foundations, families and individuals. Future improvements will also be funded through private contributions to the capital campaign.
The park is being developed according to a master plan which is based on a year-long public input process within the community, managed and donated by U30 Group. This is also the first time a major public park has been fully funded through private contributions.