Foundation aims to add 450-acre 'destination' park near downtown Clinton

Businessman Joe Hollingsworth Jr. wants to build a 450-acre park across the Clinch River from downtown Clinton, turning little-used forested hills and open fields — the latter filled out with coal ash — into a nationally-known hiking and biking destination.

“With TVA, the City of Clinton and other supporters who’ve come forward, this endeavor is currently 163 acres privately owned and we hope to partner with TVA for a recreational easement allowing the park to be up to 450 acres,” Hollingsworth said in an emailed statement. “It will be free for public use, involving no taxpayer dollars for construction or ongoing maintenance that would capture the essence of the river in a recreational aspect through our beautiful town. Being in the heart of town it will be a catalyst for other things to be built around it and expand on the Clinton vision.”

Representatives of the Hollingsworth Foundation visited more than 50 parks nationwide to gather ideas, then held a design competition, finally choosing PORT Urbanism of Chicago and Philadelphia as landscape architect. It will be named "Aspire Park."

“Now, as we add other creative partners with this group, we hope to create an inspirational recreational experience, not simply a park,” Hollingsworth said.

The Hollingsworth Foundation was an informal group of Joe Hollingsworth and his friends as recently as mid-2018, when a formal board was established, Wallace said. He was hired as executive director in July, and the park is the foundation’s first major project.

“It has long been a dream of our family to be able to contribute to a quality of life park in the City of Clinton,” Hollingsworth said via email. “We wanted this to be a component to the recent Clinton Vision and a true experience that would repeatedly attract local appreciation and some national recognition. Additionally, we wanted it to highlight some of the local historic stories to give a texture of the community to those who enjoy the park.”

Tentative plans call for hiking and biking trails on the craggy, heavily-wooded portion, and a passive park on flat areas, perhaps with a few small buildings, Wallace said. The Clinton Driving Range is included in the park area, and would be redeveloped, he said.

The foundation is working on an agreement with TVA for access to the agency’s land, and for potentially incorporating two TVA-owned Clinch River islands in the park, Wallace said.

“Working with TVA will be a long, drawn-out type of thing,” he said.

Groundbreaking should take place sometime in mid-2019, Wallace said. Development costs have yet to be determined, as is the number of on-site jobs it would create. But it’s hoped to drive economic development in the surrounding area, he said.

Construction could take about a year, which the foundation would like to sync with Clinton’s downtown redevelopment effort, Wallace said.

Clinton Mayor Scott Burton said the park should be a boon to Clinton, bringing visitors who will buy gas, food and more.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jim Gaines

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Published March 15, 2019