Tuesday night, the Knoxville City Council approved an ordinance to donate $20,000 to a local non-profit, Legacy Parks Foundation. The group will use that funding for certain initiatives to help South Knoxville businesses struggling during the Henley Bridge closure and construction project.
"The delay in opening really was a bump in the road for all of them," said Legacy Parks Executive Director Carol Evans, about the competition date of the bridge being pushed back several months. "So, the mayor [Madeline Rogero] and [Councilman] Nick Pavlis got together and said, 'What do we need to do?' And truly, marketing was the area where they thought they could use the greatest need."
South Knoxville is included in the city's Urban Wilderness area, with about 1,000 acres of parks, trails, and other natural features along the Tennessee River waterfront.
Evans says the South Knoxville businesses that make up the Urban Wilderness Trade District are working to spotlight their outdoor appeal.
"We know businesses want to be around places that people get out and play. So that's kind of who they're branding themselves as," she said.
The businesses will play a large role in the efforts.
Evans explains, "The businesses, themselves, will develop their own marketing plan. How to both survive and grow through the bridge closure, then be prepared when the bridge is open to be in a real good business position."
"It's not hard to get to South Knoxville," says long-time South Knoxville business owner Ron Emery, who runs Emery's 5&10. "What's been amazing about this is, it's much to do about nothing. It's not hard to get out here and the way it started was people just thinking it was hard."
Emery looks forward to seeing the funds at work.
"People going to discover how much fun South Knoxville really is," he said. "I think you start marketing the green spaces, and the bike trails, and they'll be a regional draw. And you'll have people coming from all over to take advantage of these trails."
He also hopes visitors will spend a little money while they're on his side of the river.
"Well, hopefully that's be the end result; we hope they'll buy something!" he laughed. "We're kind of proud of what we have over here, so let them see what we have."
County officials hope to, at some point, match the city's funding, bringing the greater total to $40,000.