Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, a recreational, cultural, and historic preservation initiative championed by Legacy Parks Foundation, incorporates 1,000 forested acres along downtown’s south waterfront. It creates an exceptional recreation and historic corridor inviting residents and visitors to experience the special character-defining assets of our city. With nearly 50 miles of multi-use trails, 10 parks, four civil war sites, incredible views, and unparalleled natural features, this unique area provides a premiere outdoor experience.
Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is conceived to stretch from Alcoa Highway to the Head of the Tennessee River and currently envisions three key destinations – The South Loop Trails, Baker Creek Preserve, and the Battlefield Loop (currently in design).
The Urban Wilderness is an incredible economic benefit to the community. Over $6 million in recent real estate transactions can be attributed directly to homeowners who want to live near trails. A 2015 study by UT’s Baker Center reports $14 million in current economic benefit from the Urban Wilderness. As it becomes a regional draw that benefit increases to $26 million, and as a national destination the benefits exceed $51 million.
South Loop Trails
Collaborating with the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, Legacy Parks has established the South Loop Trail system, more than 42 miles of natural surface trails connecting five parks and natural areas with public and private land creating exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities. The 12.5-mile main loop trail connects Ijams Nature Center, Ross Marble and Mead’s Quarries, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, William Hastie Natural Area, and Marie Myers Park. An additional 30 miles of secondary trails with varying terrain lead off the main trail.
Baker Creek Preserve
Legacy Parks transformed 100 acres of land donated to the Foundation by the Wood Family into an outdoor adventure destination for adventurers of all ages and levels of experience. Utilizing grants from the State of Tennessee, Siddiqi Foundation, REI, Bell Helmets, and an abundance of volunteer time and donated goods and services – including a major landscaping project donated by Earthadelic – the property now includes six multi-use trails, three dedicated downhill mountain bike trails, a kids pump track, an intermediate pump track, an adventure playground, and a beautiful meadow for events and play. The Baker Creek Preserve connects directly into the existing 42-mile South Loop Trails System to grow Knoxville’s urban trail system to fifty connected miles.
The Battlefield Loop includes three civil war forts, a civil war battle site, and acres of beautiful forests and views. The River Bluff Natural Area is the site of the Battle of Armstrong Hill. Purchased by Legacy Parks in 2009 and donated to the City of Knoxville in 2016, it is currently being developed into a history public park. Fort Dickerson is a city park with one of the best preserved earthen forts from the Civil War era. High Ground Park, owned by the Aslan Foundation and open to the public, was the western anchor of the Federal line. Fort Stanley, also owned by the Aslan Foundation, is the tallest and closest hill to downtown and included both the Union’s Fort Stanley and Gobbler’s Knob, It is not yet open to the public.
These culturally and historically important sites will eventually be linked to the south waterfront development and the South Loop Trails to complete Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.
Legacy Parks formed a unique partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club to design, build and maintain an improved and expanded multi-use trail system at Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, which is owned by TWRA. It is the only such agreement in the state.
Baker Creek Play Forest
With funding from the Trinity Foundation and in partnership with the Knox County Health Department and City of Knoxville Parks Department, Legacy Parks opened an adventure play space for middle school-aged children. The Play Forest was designed using research with local middle school students and aims to increase the physical activity and improve the overall health of this age group. The play space is connected directly into Baker Creek Preserve and South Doyle Middle School via trails constructed in collaboration with the Professional Trailbuilders Association.