Knoxville Takes Care Of Its Youth with a Diversity of Activities
By John M Disque
Give them a summer filled with art, brand new fascination, smiles, food, color, sports, water, nature, parks and endless activities.
I've been saying it since I was a kid myself: "A city that doesn't support its youth will crumble and a city that supports its youth will thrive." It's not rocket science but it's amazing how many cities (from tiny to huge) just don't understand.
When kids get bored they get into trouble. They begin flocking together in large groups and the trouble escalates. After a few years these activities ultimately progress to criminal lifestyles that remain inspired by pure anger, boredom, and rebellion. Eventually, the residents who care move out and crime controls the neighborhood.
When crime is ramped the real estate value drops, people discontinue doing business in the area, and things begin to deteriorate. This issue can take over a city block, an entire neighborhood and can devastate an entire major city.
Although some parts of the East TN area need to work harder, for the most part Knoxville seems to understand the imperative value of keeping its young people happy.
There are 83 parks and playgrounds covering roughly 2000 acres in Knoxville:
North Knoxville – 14 parks
South – 17 parks
Northwest - 15 parks
West – 11 parks
East – 19 parks
Downtown – 7 parks
Kids love water. While most would suggest that's it's cooling and refreshing I believe the true benefit comes from the fact that it's interactive. Adults are usually happy observing the activity; however, kids usually want to participate and they're not completely happy until they do so. Whether it's a teenager waterskiing on the lake or a 5-year-old running through a water fountain, youngsters love water.
Throughout the East TN area there are hundreds of special events being arranged for children. There's no way to list them all here, but I'm happy to give an example of some of my favorites:
Volunteer Landing, Carl Cowan Park, World's Fair Site, Charles Krutch Park all have water play fountains and water playgrounds for the kids. It's quite amusing to sit there and watch them tirelessly running in and out of the water for hours.
Ijams Nature Center is a 101 year old, 275 acre wildlife sanctuary located in the Island Home area of town. Ijams constantly hosts family events and hands-on learning. If the loved one on your list is a nature and/or wildlife lover, this is the place to be.
The best museums for kids are the non-traditional interactive ones. Children's Museum of Oak Ridge is a perfect, unique hands-on learning opportunity that began, and was developed by kids themselves. They're open 6 days a week. Children under 3 get in free.
As always, the Knoxville Zoo is happy to keep kids smiling and entertained. All ages and all animal lovers are welcomed 7 days a week, 9:30 am to 6 pm.
In 2008 the designers of Tyson Park chose to be brilliant by building Knoxville Skatepark which keeps older kids (teenagers) busy with a skateboarding and BMX area. Included are an endless amount of smooth concrete waves and pool bowls. Once the kids arrive they make dozens of new friends and they're hooked on the activity.
If your youngster leans toward the "competitive, athletic lifestyle," Knoxville is home to many baseball and softball leagues. Leagues are usually broken down into districts or counties so check local websites for more information. Knoxville offers many other youth sports.
Knoxville's Challenger Little League program is provided at no charge to youngsters with special needs and is funded mainly through community support and contributions.
There are some exceptions but most community events taking place at the convention center now have children's activities included. They've learned that when the kids are happy and taken care of the parents can take their time and make a day of the event.
As the years go on The Cove at Concord Park gets more and more popular. One look around will tell you why. Along with its beach, walking trails, volleyball courts, playground, fishing pond, picnic tables, kayaking, and canoeing, The Cove hosts monthly concerts.
For many years Pigeon Forge TN has been the hotspot for kids of all ages. Most parents in the area can tell you that it's the arcades, go-carts and water parks. Most kids can't get enough, and if they had their way they'd stay in Pigeon Forge all summer long.
Today, at my age and in my position what you want is to be proud of your city. As unusual as it may sound, that's not about me. I want to know that your children will be okay.
In the process of writing this article I couldn't help but reflect on my own childhood. In the end, the best of you takes over and writes in the unselfish truth. My own childhood wasn't very pretty, but the kids of Knoxville have every opportunity to forever adore their childhood. Run all of this by them and let them choose what they want to do. They might need your help to get them there or get them started but they'll love you for it forever.
Published in Knoxville Daily Sun June 11, 2011
Published in East TN News October 11, 2011