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SoKno Art Trail

South Knoxville (now fondly called “SoKno”), has experienced a revitalization over the past ten years, prompted in great part by the establishment of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness – a spectacular outdoor destination where you can hike, bike, climb, paddle, or just wander in the woods – all within the heart of the city. Three miles of Tennessee River waterfront and over 60 miles of trails and greenways connect you to a beautiful nature center, pristine lakes, historic sites, dramatic quarries, adventure playgrounds, five city parks, and a 600-acre wildlife area.

Legacy Parks initiated Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness in 2008 – now a regional destination contributing an annual local economic impact of $14.6 million, according to a report from the Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Adding to the more than 50 miles of trails in SoKno, Legacy Parks is creating a 1.5-mile trail along a rail line in the heart of South Knoxville’s business district stretching from Chapman Highway to Island Home neighborhood.

The trail will be a ‘Rail with Trail’ running alongside the active Knoxville & Holston River Railroad rail line. It will provide both a commuter and a recreational route as well as another key connection in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

In 2019, Legacy Parks was awarded $10,000 by the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon to fund a trailhead and a $2,500 First Tennessee grant.

As South Knoxville has grown in recent years, it has taken on an identity of its own as residents moved in and businesses opened along the rail line. The outdoorsy and eclectic community has welcomed six breweries, three restaurants, a new waterfront park with river access and many other businesses. Keeping with the eclectic culture, many buildings have integrated art and graffiti on their buildings.

Building on the community’s enthusiasm around art, a new vision for the rail with trail project came to life. The SoKno Art Trail will be the first of its kind in Knoxville.

This cultural art trail will celebrate the art, history and natural beauty of our community. Specially commissioned art pieces will create a unique destination that both showcases the exceptional artists in Knoxville while integrating art, nature and recreation into an accessible experience for all.

A full-range of art will be represented along the trail–murals, sculptures, functional installations, graffiti and youth-created works. Drawing from the example of New York City’s High Line Park, The SoKno Art Trail is envisioned as a “living system”, drawing from multiple disciplines including landscape architecture, urban design, and ecology.

The location provides a unique opportunity to introduce the concept because of the numerous businesses with patios on or to be constructed along the trail; the connectivity to the Urban Wilderness, Old Sevier Neighborhood, Island Home Neighborhood, South Woodlawn Neighborhood, Chapman Highway Business District and downtown Knoxville; and the walkability of the community that is already a valued commodity.

What we are going to see is neighborhoods connected, businesses connected, and businesses that incubate along the rail line because people will explore the trail and easily venture from spot to spot.

Two trailheads are planned at both ends of the trail – one behind the River’s Edge Apartments by Island Home neighborhood and one at Kern’s on Chapman Highway – an up-and-coming food hall and market that will be a destination for locals and visitors.

The concept design is currently in progress.

Construction of the project may not begin until the project is fully funded – fundraising for the project is ongoing.

Project Partners 

BlueWater Industries, Knox County, East Tennessee Community Design Center, BarberMcMurry Architects, Hickory Construction, Hedstrom Landscape Architecture, S&ME, The Thought Bureau and numerous veterans’ organizations and individuals

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