KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville's urban wilderness is expanding, and the latest addition to fun-filled outdoor space is the William Hastie Natural Area in South Knoxville.
On Thursday, city of Knoxville officials, Appalachian Mountain Bike Club volunteers and donors close to the project cut the ribbon on four new trails.
The added 2 miles of urban outdoor space is a welcome addition for those who love to hike, walk, run, rock climb and mountain bike.
The 27-acre project has been just over a year in the making. The fundraising started in 2021 to acquire the land and begin construction.
The expansion grows Hastie park by about a third of its existing acreage.
More than 300 donors made the sale of the land possible. The city pledged $100,000 for the land, Vee Hollow in Townsend chipped in, the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club raised $20,000 and Harper Auto Square matched that. There were several other private donors and businesses who also contributed.
It took a lot of elbow grease and effort from a variety of volunteers, builders and city crews to get this trail system done.
"We had over 150 individual volunteers out working on these trails we are opening today, so it's an amazing public effort and support not only with cash dollars, but also with people's sweat equity to get us to today," AMBC Executive Director Matthew Kellogg said.
There's a variety of difficulties on the trails, too. For beginners, the 0.4-mile Spingarn Trail is a multi-use loop where people can easily walk.
Mitchie's Way is an intermediate 0.6-mile trail that designers optimized for hiking.
Professional builders hand-crafted the two "most difficult" trails, the Third Circuit and Sugar & Rum trails, which are both 0.4 miles long.
According to a release from the city of Knoxville, "Third Circuit, completed with help from AMBC volunteers, is a directional downhill mountain bike trail. Sugar & Rum, worked on by more than 120 volunteers, is optimized for downhill bike traffic with future phases to include steps for uphill hiker and runner traffic."
The city will assume ownership of the William Hastie expansion and will manage its maintenance as part of the enlarged city park.
This is just one great addition to South Knoxville's urban wilderness space. It's been a decade since the urban wilderness project started, and now it keeps growing and getting better.
"These trails serve all of Knoxville's residents, whether they be biking or hiking or running or walking or taking their dog out on the trail," Kellogg said. "These trails are open to all users and we love providing that access."
AMBC encourages people to become private land donors and help expand Knoxville's outdoor playground even more.
University of Tennessee researchers are about a year into an urban wilderness study that will gauge how people use the areas, how often outdoor enthusiasts come out and where people are traveling from to take advantage.
The study will take about 24 months, or two years, in total.