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One-of-a-kind East Tennessee park starts taking shape

Developers said Aspire Park would be the largest private free-to-the-public park in the Southeast centered on recreation and reflection.

CLINTON, Tenn. — A new multi-use park named Aspire Park in Clinton is the legacy of a hometown boy.

“It’s about families that have gone before us and what they did,” developer Joe Hollingsworth said. 

He is the visionary behind a 180-acre green space, almost doubled by a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, that will include a picnic basket full of options for fun and reflection that include a Service and Sacrifice Memorial, a wildflower meadow, convention spaces, a restaurant, age-designated playground, 18 miles of hiking and biking trails and event venues.

Credit: Hollingsworth Foundation
Rendering of a public walkway, dining area, and gathering spot at Aspire Park in Clinton

Hollingsworth spent around $26 million to build the park. He is a man who built his first house as a teenager and then started working on a multi-million-dollar industrial development business. 

“So much of life is about having aspiration. And we wanted to encourage that thought and spread that thought,” Hollingsworth said.

Credit: Hollingsworth Foundation
Aspire Park Onward and Upward Center

Now more than 70 years old, Hollingsworth said Aspire Park is about attracting new visitors and new residents to a city of around 10,000 people that, in its heyday, was triple that size.

“I hope that it creates an economic destiny, the Clinton should have, that we should enjoy for the next 50 years,” Hollingsworth said on a recent tour of a park he hopes will open in the spring of 2023.

“World-class” is a term he uses often. Borrowing the “best” ideas from parks around the country, Hollingsworth is working to incorporate a slice of what he views as successful attractions across the country and incorporating those features in a piece of dirt that amounts to his backyard.

“Just the thought that some dad, some mom, brings their kid here. And then when they grew up, they'll bring their kid here. And the generations go on and on. So, I think it's, it's fun planting that seed, and just watching it grow,” Hollingsworth said.

To add to that enthusiasm, the mayor of Clinton summed up Aspire Park in a statement.

“I believe this will bring much-needed commerce in the South Clinton area to include restaurants, businesses, and even a hotel at some point. The future is bright for Clinton and Anderson County,” Mayor Scott Burton said.

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