Sep 26 2007

I heard Commissioner Wendy Pitts Reeves say something the other day and it really is worth talking about. While I can't phrase this the way she would, I will go ahead and ask the question.

What is so special about Blount County? Where or what are our favorite places? The places / things we most want to protect? The places or things that are at greatest risk of being lost?

Before everyone logs in and says the GSMNP, I want to point out that it is part of Blount County but that is not in our control. So what other places or things do we have here that really need protection and why?

Ahhhh..... What a nice question!

Thanks, Mello, for bringing this up! I was probably talking about the concept of "asset mapping", something I mentioned to John Lamb at the Citizen Input meeting on Monday night. I had just finished a book called Smart Communities: How Citizens and Local Leaders Can Use Strategic Thinking to Build a Brighter Future, written by Suzanne Morse of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. In it, Morse described this process as a structured way of gathering information on the strengths of a community.

She talks, in particular, about asking citizens about their talents and abilities as a way of learning 'what's out there', a way of finding and capitalizing on the strengths and skills that all of us have to offer our community. (The intelligence I see so often on this blog is just a sampling of what we have here in Blount County.)

When I thought of "asset mapping", however, my first thought was about the land. What is it around here that we love? What are our favorite views? Favorite picnic spots? Favorite places to study, walk, play, and work?

I'll start. This is a small thing, but I'll share it nevertheless. One of my very favorite places in all of Blount County is the corner of Old Niles Ferry Rd. and Best St. Do you know that spot? If you do, you'll know there's a dogwood tree that stands alone there that is striking in its age and beauty. I can only imagine how old it is, but it's been there, on that corner, for a very long time. In the fall, it's covered with bright red berries; in spring, a thick crown of pink and white tinged blossoms. It stands with a kind of authority that only age can bring.

I don't know who owns that small plot of land, but for the 23 years I've driven by that little corner, I've always been grateful that it's been left alone.

How about you?


Wendy Pitts Reeves, L.C.S.W.
Blount County Commissioner, District 4, Seat C

Mapping those physical assets

What I would dearly love to know-

  • How many areas and acres are now in GreenBelt status?
  • How many have we lost( or gained ) in the past 5, 10 or 15 years?
  • How many if any have conservation easements for public use?
  • How many tax dollars has Blount County collected when those GreenBelt lands are sold off and the seller is required to pay roll back taxes?
  • How many acres and areas within Blount County are owned or under state control?
  • How many acres of wetlands do we have?

View from Look Rock

Since I was a child, I enjoyed the walk up to the fire tower and the view off the platform at Look Rock, on top of Chilhowee Mountain. I have always thought that one of the best things about Blount County was you could be doing your shopping in town and 15-20 minutes later can be right up on top of Chilhowee taking in the breathtaking view. I used to drive up there to take in the leaves and it was great, because it is close enough that it could be done on the spur of the moment. I trotted all out of town visitors up there to ooh and ahh.

Alas, this is now buggered up by "Overlook at Montvale" by Harmony Properties. Just seeing the name of the development irritates me, since the good folks at Harmony got their way by promising to save Camp Montvale. Kind of like the slash and burn builders around here who are prone to bulldozing down every tree and native bush on the site and then name the place after the stand of Four Oaks they destroyed.

Also, I'm now noticing that in typical Wears Valley style, you see big houses cropping up right up on the mountain side and always with the trees stripped away to protect the homeowner's view. But what about everyone else's view? We need Ridge Laws before it is too late and we're just looking at Booger Lights all over the mountainside in the dark and Mountainside McMansions in the daytime.

I agree

Wears Valley makes me sick to my stomach. It hurts my heart to think that something like that is/can happen in Blount County.

I'd have to agree

The view from Look Rock - in fact, the view from the Foothills Parkway in general - is really a community asset. The view from the pull-offs along the Parkway is stunning, and accessible to everyone (even the elderly or handicapped can get a great view from the Parkway). Those able to walk to the tower can see for a fabulous 360 degrees. This is within a short drive from town, and is a very popular place for visitors and locals alike.

It is generally understood that people can't pollute our streams and rivers, even if they own a piece of the riverbank, because clean water is a valuable community asset. Degradation of the watershed affects us all. Just like the watershed, our "viewshed" is also a valuable community asset - and degradation of the viewshed affects us all.

There are possibly so many

There are possibly so many things to list. Right now my favorite area is Springbrook Park/Neighborhood. These both should be retained not just for the beauty but for the history. Drive down Hunt Road from Louisville Road to Springbrook. Take a right onto any of the streets, Springbrook, Nobel, Dalton, Kettering.

Drive down through the neighborhood of adorable cottages, larger homes and huge trees. The temperature drops five or more degrees just entering this neighborhood. Arrive at just about any of the park destinations, gymnasium and playgrounds, upper fields, lower fields, picnic areas, swimming pool, duck pond to find a wonderfully maintained park twelve months of the year. You can feel a calming sensation, like visiting the mountains or the ocean, an oasis.

Wear's Valley is almost lost

Wear's Valley is almost lost now, Townsend, Millers Cove (where my ancestors owned land) Rocky Branch, Chilhowee, Montvale, Happy Valley, Six Mile, Four Mile, Wildwood.
The whole character of this county will be changed due to more housing, roads and other development.
All I do is sit back and watch.

Heart breaker

Oh yeah, Wear's Valley is near the top of my list.

The Milky Way from the Foot Hills Parkway.

As an avid amateur astronomer, I like to go up on the Foot Hills Parkway for the view of the Milky Way. The parking lot just to the south of the big one, which serves the observation tower, has a nice view to the south-southeast. There is some ridge behind to block some of the light from down in the valley and if the humidity is low, the Milky Way can be quite striking.

Forrest Erickson

Shake a strangers hand

No GSMNP? Isn't part of Cherokee National Forrest in Blount?

No, it's the people. Always has been, always will be. Due to some lingering ideas of the late Richard Nixon, the creator of the term the "silent majority", the true silent majority has actually become the general public. Good people are still in control of this county, the bad folks just don't know it yet. One current theme you generally hear around town is that people are getting weary of public servants that answer only to small few. History tells us that this has happened before - and that we got past it before.

One fleeting thing was a sense you could count on your neighbor, native or not, to just become part of the community. I guess some of that goes away with very rapid growth and expansion. Xenophobia accounts for some of our current issues, and while that's harsh, I think it's undeniable. Misunderstanding about those that move here from elsewhere along with immigrant labor at the rate at which it has occurred the last 10+ years has some natives wondering where their little town went. Change rarely comes easy, and it's exacerbated by those playing dirty politics. Because of abuse of power, people are being forced to defend actions and positions they otherwise wouldn't have to deal with. Before these dirty politics, you rarely heard talk about "people not from here" or "look where their from". The shame is, those "not from here" seem to be the best advocates for preserving Blount County, while the perpetrators of these xenophobic bombs seem intent on turning Blount on its ear. But like I said, this too will pass.

No, Cherokee NF is not

No, Cherokee NF is not inside of Blount County. I spent a week trying to track that info this past spring.

I excluded the Park because it is not ours in the sense that we have any local control over what happens there. Yellowstone is "ours" but we have no control over that or any other NPS area.

Yes, it is an asset and the key reason we need to protect our major and minor byways into the county.

Good thread.I agree on

Good thread.

I agree on Springbrook Park. Actually the whole Blount Co. Parks and Recreation system which is top notch, especially Springbrook.

Downtown Maryville. There are some good things happening down there, and we should keep it moving in that direction while preserving the character.

The neighborhood near Maryville College and Court Street (don't know what you call it). It's charming and it looks like people are investing in it and that should be encouraged.

The neighborhood between Hall Rd. and Calderwood/N. Cusick (between Kroger/Food City and Midland Shopping Center, don't know what you call it) is also a nice, convenient neighborhood with some interesting architecture.

The neighborhoods around Maryville High school. Same as above. All of these neighborhoods have unique character and offer convenient and affordable housing as alternatives to all the new, expensive subdivisions. You should probably add the neighborhood south of W. Broadway back behind where the Kays used to be (don't know what you call that, either) to this list.

Alcoa Aluminum. I know that's about 180 degrees off from what this discussion is probably about, but consider that they employ over 1600 people, and add nearly 4000 indirect jobs for a total wage impact of more than $340 million according to a recent report. That's pretty huge, and not something we would want to lose. Alcoa as a whole has been in play recently, and the Tennessee operations have been affected and could be even more.

Same thing for Denso and all the businesses at the Industrial Park, at least as far as jobs and economic impact.

Same thing for the Ruby Tuesday HQ. It's pretty cool to have an internationally known brand headquartered here.

Same thing for the airport and the Air National Guard base. They are important to the local and the regional economy, not to mention national defense.

The Maryville Daily Times. Yes, we gripe about their coverage of this or that, but we are probably lucky to have such a good local paper in a county this size. I don't know the statistics, but I'm guessing it may be unique. Plus, their national coverage is more balanced (and maybe a little to the left of) the Knoxville paper, which is nice.

Little River. This is hugely important. Not only is it our main source of water, it's also one of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in East Tennessee and a big source of recreation and tourism dollars.

The rural areas along 321, 411S, Sevierville Pike/411 to Seymour, I-140/Pellissippi, and the Wildwood area. We should preserve the rural character and scenic views along these routes and protect them from sprawl or commercial/industrial development. They are nice "calling cards" for visitors coming to and from the airport and other Blount Co. destinations.

And of course, Townsend and Wears Valley, Chilhowee Mountain, Montvale Rd, etc. We don't want that to be another Pigeon Forge, or at least I don't.

At least one ALCOA's

At least one of ALCOA's buildings are on the National Register.

Each and every single one of the places on this list need added care.


Wider eyes

I tend to get a little tunnel vision with all the political stuff. Thanks for all the reminders you listed here. I used to live in Springbrook also. It's hard to have a "general" sense of trees - until you move out from under them.

I'll toss out another

I'll toss out another one.

The Hall Community. This is another great historic neighborhood with a good stock of affordable housing. There is some investment going on there, too, and that should be encouraged. There are also some problems with crime that need to be cleaned up.

Bount Co. as a whole needs to be less segregated. People of all races should be welcome in any neighborhood they can afford and want to live in.

Another one: Rockford/Martin

Another one: Rockford/Martin Mill area along Little River.

The prettiest placee in the world. The jewel of East Tennessee,

I am from Ohio. Just like I was allowed to choose my wife and my adopted children, who I love dearly I chose the state of Tennessee to live in. I love the state of Tennessee and could not be prouder of the heritage that comes with being a Tennessean. I chose to live in Tennessee because of its beauty and the many diversified people that live here.
Last weekend I had the honor of celebrating my 23rd aniversary with my wife. We were married at the Methodist church in Wears Valley.
Where we got married was very important to my wife and I. It had to be just right. We wanted a place that we could be proud of, that our friends and family would remember. We had looked all over East Tennesse for a pretty location to have our wedding and we decided on Wears Valley. It rained the day we got married and we had to move inside just before the ceremony, I can still remember how beutiful Cove Mountain looked with a mist coming up out of the forest. All of our friends and family spent time in the mountains afterward and all have talked about how pretty the area was where we had our wedding. I am quite positive that we would not choose that church now because of the nasty looking ridge lines and all of the houses built there. It is not a place I would be proud to show my family and friends.
This past weekend we were on our way to a cabin in Sevierville and saw a mountain that had been raped. At least 4o homes had been built in one area where no attempt had been made to save any trees or plants to hide the destruction that had occurred to the mountain. My wife and I talked about urban sprawl and how terrible the houses being built willy nilly all over the mountains make the mountains look bad. We also talked about all of the businesses being built along the major roadways without any guidelines for style and construction of the buildings make East Tennessee look. We saw several places in Blount county where this is beginning to occur. If you don't belive me drive to the Foothills Parkway Lookout Tower or drive up East Miller's Cove Road out of Walland. (While you are driving imagine another 1000 cars going up and down that road with your children in a school bus. I beieve one has already turned over without the additional cars.)
I have been a Tennessee Football fan since 1955 when I first saw the Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama play on television. A volunteer is a person who takes pride in where they live. For the last 36 years I have considered myself fortunate to be considered a volunteer. I believe a volunteer is a person who takes pride in where they live and cares about others that live around them. I am beginning to believe that this is not so about most of the people that we have elected to public office in Blount County. There are a select few who do care and want to see Blount County remain one of the prettiest places in the United States. I hope that people in Blount County don't allow those people who only want financial gains, with no regards to how it makes beutiful Tennessee look, destroy the aesthetic splendor of Blount County Tennessee.

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