Kim Isenberg introduced Carol Evans, executive director of the Legacy Parks Foundation, saying that Carol’s work is all about outdoor space, and that Carol is a weaver of people in the fabric of collaboration.

Legacy Parks Foundation is an East Tennessee nonprofit organization working to ensure that our community enjoys exceptional recreational opportunities, natural beauty and open spaces, and that these assets exist for generations to come. “We work collaboratively to preserve our area’s extraordinary natural resources and to expand parks, create trails, and increase access to our rivers,” says Carol on her website. “Since 2007, Legacy Parks has raised over six million dollars for parks and open space, helped conserve 1,000 acres of forest and farmland, and added over 700 acres of park land in Knox County.”

In her remarks, Carol tied four aspects of her mission—recreation, tourism, economic development, and conservation—to health, noting that more than a third of adults and a quarter of kids in Tennessee are obese, that Tennessee still ranks 43rd in health, and that every dollar invested in outdoor activities results in $3 in reduced medical costs.

In recreation, children are five times more likely to be healthy if they live a half-mile or less from a playground. Even a 5% increase in physical activity saves $13 million a year in lower medical costs and lost productivity.

Tourism is a $27 billion industry in Tennessee, second only to the automotive industry. Outdoor recreation in Tennessee creates $9 billion in consumer spending, 93,000 jobs, and $4 billion in wages.

For economic development, outdoor recreation is the second most important consideration for home buyers.  You can get $9,000 more for a home within 1,000 feet of a bike path. Quality of life also draws employers. R&D companies, especially, prioritize quality of life because they have to recruit all the young people who totally value outdoor activities.

TVA estimates that every mile of shoreline generates $1 million in economic impact.  Our urban wilderness generates $26 million in economic impact annually, “and we are poised to generate $51 million.”

“Here’s what we do,” said Carol. “We accept and acquire land. We create parks and trails. We hold easements (five conservation easements and 17 trail ones). We are an advocate for natural resources.”

Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is unique in being 1,000 acres with 10 parks basically within downtown.

It all started when $1.5 million of property was for sale. “We see ourselves as an outdoor town,” said Carol.

Legacy Parks is now working on a number of parks.

  • Veterans’ Memorial Park off John Sevier Highway will offer activities and become a Knox County park.
  • An Intergenerational Play Space adjacent to Hillcrest will allow grownups to play alongside kids.
  • The Angora Frog Farm is a child-focused park.
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield has given a $6 million Healthy Spaces Grant to improve Morningside Park.
  • The So Knox Art Trail will use the old train tracks parallel to John Sevier Blvd. near all the hipster bars and coffee shops.
  • The Head of the Tennessee Institute is developing the conjunction of the Holston and French Broad where the Tennessee is formed.
  • Access For All Adaptive Trails are going in on Sharp’s Ridge and Concord Park.

Carol concluded by quoting Thoreau: “Heaven is under our feet as well as above our heads.”