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There is a place in Knoxville that has come to rival almost any trail system I have ever known. The outer loop of this system is currently 12.5 miles long and connects together just over 30 miles of cross country mountain biking. And, the best part is, it is that this area is expanding almost every month. The goal is that

the 1,000-acre Knoxville Urban Wilderness, championed by Legacy Parks Foundation, is a partnership with Ijams, AMBC, TWRA and the City and County of Knoxville. We are developing the 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness, that when completed, will connect ten parks, feature over forty miles of recreational trails, four civil war sites, and diverse ecological features and recreational amenities.

The mountain biking trails are called the “Dirty South.” Friends who have lived in this area have referred to it as such for years. The South Loop, coined by the Urban Wilderness collective, is it’s referred name in the books. I realize also that many people have sweated a lot to create such an amazing space and I am a newbie to parts of this track of land, some parts I’ve been biking for a few years now. However, I HAD NO IDEA the massive amount of cross-country mountain biking that could be had literally over the street from where we live.

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Check it (the map system): SouthLoop(2)

Two weeks ago we went out exploring this loop, realizing we can bike from home to get to one of the entrances. WHAT A FIND.

I have ridden the section at Ijams Nature Center around the Mead’s Quarry but little did I know the fun that lay hidden at the Hastie, Marie Myers and Helix side. of things.

I admit I am VERY partial to this track of land, as it is, as I mentioned, in our backyard.

Recently, a tragic event almost happened that threatened this area. TDOT wanted to expand James White Parkway onto John Sevier Highway, making an area expand literally through a track of this land. (See the proposal here from TDOT.) Had this happened, a gigantic section of the trail system would have been taken over by a highway…and would have run through our backyard. It would have traversed three to four of the already built sections of the South Loop trails.

However…

In an effort to save the system, a family rose up and donated 100 acres to the Urban Wilderness/Legacy Park system.

(I love it when the people rise up for good causes and succeed.)

Now, officially, TDOT has decided that they will not continue the JWP expansion, but instead, they are “somewhat concerned” that the efforts to help South Knoxville are in jeopardy.

But in the words of a local, long time resident, “South Knoxville folks do stick together.”

In thinking about all of this it is amazing to watch where we have come in the past few weeks regarding this decision. It is amazing that we have the privilege of living in an area so strongly in favor of wilderness development. It will also be amazing to see where this takes South Knoxville in the next few years. Imagine the possibilities if we continue as an area to develop the parks, get the word out nationally and then see an entire section of the trails expand into the likes of Tsali in North Carolina, where a whole community receives economic growth due to playing outdoors.

For now, I think I will plot our next ride WITH our gopro….wanna come?


(video owned by alc1013)

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