KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A long-overlooked creek in the heart of East Knox County is seeing a wave of new attention and restoration.
“The eventual goal is to have 44 miles of floatable stream and make it one of the longest water trails in the entire southeastern United States, which is really something cool and unique for Knoxville to have,” said Charlie Austin, president of the Beaver Creek Kayak Club.
Austin hatched the idea with friends to "Float The Beaver" back in 2006. But, their kayak adventure was stopped every few dozen yards by downed trees and debris in the river. New efforts to clean up the small stream spread to county leaders.
“The entire Beaver Creek cleanup initiative really starts with flood control. If we can clear it out, we can open the drain for really the entire northern half of Knox County,” said Knox County At-Large Commissioner Larsen Jay.
A county work crew now spends every day all day working to clear a dozen miles of stream to reduce the flooding risk, improve habitat for native plants and animals, and open the creek to recreation.
“It kind of dovetails with a lot of what we're doing, which is really close to home access to recreation … Our trails in your backyard and this creek in your backyard makes it really easy for you to recreate during the week, stop on the way home (from work or school), go for a little paddle,” said Carol Evans who serves as Executive Director of Legacy Parks Foundation.
The non-profit helped fundraise and install a new adaptive dock to help launch paddlers of all abilities just behind the Powell High School's baseball field.
“I think the real commitment from the county and the (Beaver Creek) Kayak Club in us was to make this fully accessible to everyone,” said Evans.
And memberships in the Beaver Creek Kayak Club show the momentum behind the stream project. A group that started with five members now boasts close to four thousand and counting.
“Not all of our members are actually out here floating a lot like we do, but they're out talking about Beaver Creek and getting that word out. And that was one of the huge things. Like I said, people just didn't understand it was here, the opportunity was there,” said Austin.
Here is a link and background to sign up for the family-friendly sixth annual Float the Beaver Flotilla on Saturday, May 20, starting at 9:30 a.m. Registration is $10, with the money going to ongoing improvements for the creek.