I like to go to meetings. Listening to what people say in person instead of in media soundbites provides a completely different understanding of what is happening. Watching facial expressions, observing interactions with others and hearing reactions is the antidote to paranoid conspiracy theories and fear of progress.
So, I went to a meeting about the proposed, but unfunded, walking bridge at the World’s Fair Park. Wait. Back up two steps. The bridge planning group is not the same as the group exploring ways to cohesively create an improved World’s Fair Park entertainment and education corridor between campus and downtown. The two projects are in the same location and have some shared goals, but neither project is dependent upon the other.
The walking bridge would be an extended, ADA and bicycle friendly entrance to the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA). The height and viewing area would transform the park’s lawn into an exhibit of its’ own. The tower of the bridge would add more restrooms to the park area near the fountains and if you’ve been to the fountains, you know that the proposed changing rooms are much needed there. It wasn’t mentioned at the meeting, but lockers and CycleSafes would incorporate well with this project.
The bridge would promote foot traffic at the museum, fountains and Veterans Memorial. When the MUSE is added to the area, the stroller-friendly walking bridge will create an irresistible connection between the two museums. This isn’t piecemealing the World’s Fair site. This is deliberate and thoughtful cohesion.
The bridge project is also part of a plan to correct landscaping in the area. Scrubby weeds and areas that currently collect unwanted water will be replaced with proper irrigation, shade trees and shrubbery for wildlife habitats. The project would improve parking at the various World’s Fair Park amenities, including the L&N STEM Academy, which will have its’ first senior class this year.
I don’t have an opinion on the development group’s plan because they don’t have a plan. I don’t need to comment on the physical condition of the current amphitheater. I will say that the standing water and mosquito population on the south end of the lawn is not a pleasant feature.
Knoxville SHOULD fight the rapid suburban sprawl that leaves behind a trail of abandoned businesses and big box stores. Kicking and screaming against all downtown renovation and growth that isn’t focused on craft beer is a mistake.