VHSF has officially adopted Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park from the City of Knoxville. The park was dedicated to Veterans in 1953 with published plans for a veterans memorial, kiosks and a large observation tower. Those plans were never accomplished and over the past 63 years there has been little in the way of honoring veterans in the park; in fact the park itself has become a notorious site for criminal and illicit activities. In recent years, both the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club and the Knoxville Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society have vested their interests in the park and worked towards improvement. The ABMC has re-purposed the long forgotten and neglected walking trails that weave through the south side of the ridge into a series of well maintained biking trails while the Ornithological Society keeps the roadway litter free and hosts educational bird watching walks through the park. These efforts have slightly elevated the parks reputation and have brought positive traffic to the park, but these efforts were specifically geared towards the interests of these groups and there are still very little “memorializing” aspects in this memorial park.
For the past year, our organization has been working closely with the City of Knoxville Department of Parks and Recreation to develop a renovation and clean-up plan that will make the park more community friendly, create an environment more befitting a Veterans Memorial Park and maintain the park for future generations. We spent much of last fall and this past spring working to accomplish a long needed and highly desired task on the City’s wish list: clearing the view of overgrowth at the JB Owen panoramic viewing area. The beautiful view of downtown Knoxville that has been featured in countless publications, videos and webpages over the years has ever so slowly been choked by clusters of vines, shrubs that have grown into giant bushes and pole trees. The view didn’t leave much to be seen unless you just wanted to look at a veritable jungle of Privet, Honey Suckle, Kudzu and pole oaks. Thanks to the volunteer labor force comprised of student veterans at UT and Pellissippi State, the Women Veterans of America, the Knoxville Sea Cadets and the Knoxville Young Marines, that view is once again quite panoramic. The 70 degree slope below the viewing deck was cleared of all overgrowth by Veterans who were eager for an excuse to rappel and use machetes and hatchets once again. The youngsters in the sea Cadets and Young Marines hauled the brush into a large pile and they also attacked the shrubs and vines that obstructed the two picnic areas from being visible from the park roadway. To keep the view clear, prevent erosion and simply beautify the slope, we plan to sow the 1/2 acre clearing with Tennessee wildflowers this fall. We also have plans in August to repair the viewing decks loose and rotting boards, shore up the wobbly balusters and paint the entire structure in the more natural color scheme of brown and green rather than the current industrial gray.
Yesterday, with the support and assistance of District 5 City Councilman Mark Campen, VHSF filed a formal application with City Council to change the parks name to Sharp’s Ridge Veteran’s Memorial Park. This is the beginning of our plan to transform Sharps Ridge into a true Veterans Memorial Park and one that will attract not only our communities Veterans but also families, young people and travelers who may be passing through. Currently we are working with renown architect Bill Denton, who designed the Sunsphere, to develop a preliminary park design that will include a new highly visible entrance to the park, a Veterans Memorial on the west end of the park, an “inclusive” playground, a dog park, a Bikers Pavilion, a Birding Kiosk, additional parking areas, directional markers, and a huge Mount Rushmore style monument on the western slope that will be visible from the highway. Our vision may be a grand one, but we think it is attainable!