Island Home Neighborhood Park is located in Island Home Park subdivision in South Knoxville, approximately 2.5 miles from downtown Knoxville.The park is owned and maintained by the city of Knoxville, with general oversight provided by the Island Home Park Homeowners Association.
The park comprises some 3 acres plus an open grassy area and several more acres of wooded area. The park is bordered on the north by the Tennessee River, on the east by Estelle Circle , the Island Home airport and the Tennessee School for the Deaf. It is bordered on the South by Spenceway Street and on the west by residential property The park is equipped with a paved walking path, a paved tennis court,a practice ball field,. a gravel recreation area containing swings, slides, hand-walking bars And play horses.The park is also equipped with picnic tables and benches for relaxation and observation of boat and wild-life action on the river and the take-off and landing of planes from the airport There is a drinking fountain near the entrance to the park.
In that the park is located on the Tennessee River there are excellent locations for fishing. A recent addition to the park has been the extension of the Ijams Nature Center Greenway. The greenway commences at the northern point where the French Broad and Holston Rivers converge to form the Tennessee River. It runs south along the south side of the river, circles the outer perimeter of the Ijams Nature Center, and follows westward along the bank of the Tennessee River until it enters into and ends at the Island Home Neighborhood Park.Future plans are to extend the greenway and connect it to the existing Riverfront Greenway running along Neyland Drive.
Island Home city Neighborhood Park was established May 18,1950, when the city of Knoxville, by warranty deeds purchased from the Island Home Park company, the developing entity for the Island Home Park Subdivision, nine(9) lots and a strip of land running eastward along the river to about where Willis Place abuts into Spenceway Street for a token price of $100.00.
In the establishment, continuation and equipment of the Park many individuals and organizations have rendered contributions. Who first conceived the idea for the Park is not readily made known, whether it was an individual, a projected program or the city council ;the Island Home Park Company must have been instrumental to or sympathetic with the idea, because the token sum for which they sold the land to the city of Knoxville and the willingness to reconfigure the design and location of Estelle Circle .Another organization that may have promoted the idea of a Park located in the subdivision was the Island Home Commission, which is thought to be the forerunner and ancestor of the present Island Homeowners Association. In particular regard to membership of that Commission the names of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Galbraith are named as members.Mr. Galbraith in 1905 purchased from the heirs of Col. Perez Dickinson, a Mr. Cown and Mr. Rhea, the western half of the Dickinson Island Home Park Model Farm. In 19 11 Mr. Galbraith sold the 1905 purchased properly to the Island Home Park Comp any for the development of the Island Home Park Subdivision. It would be logical to assume that the Galbraiths and the Commission members would have been supportive of a neighborhood park for the local residents of the subdivision.
There is one factor that may have led to placing a city park in Island Home and at the present location . Senior residents of Island Home ,as well as some who grew up there, indicate that the area where the park is located had been used for recreational purposes long before the city park was established. Baseball, football as well as Boy Scout camping were some of the activities that occurred there on a regular basis. This use was apparently allowed through the generosity of the Island Home Park Company, the owners of the land.
The growth of the park was slow. The city administration did not put a very high priority on parks and green spaces.The limited attention by the city was compensated for in part by the oversight efforts of the residents of the neighborhood. An article in the May 5,1964 edition of the Knoxvilie News Sentinel reported of an organized resistance of Island Home Park residents regarding a proposed construction of a boat ramp within the park. In the February 9,1982 edition of the Sentinel it was reported that strong opposition of a boat dock to be constructed near the park entrance .It was indicated that a petition containing 150 signatures had been sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Apparently, these opposing efforts met with success as neither the boat ramp or the dock was ever constructed. The residents of Island Home, through the efforts of the neighborhood association continue to monitor and offer opposition to any proposal which they believe would be a determent to the beauty and purpose of their park and the welfare of the subdivision.
In the late 1980 s a desire arose from the residents in Island Home to have the park upgraded to a level that would serve users of the park in a pleasing and safe manner. At that time the park had a lot of open space and a swing set, an asphalt loop walkway an a wire baseball backstop. In addition the park grounds and the limited facilities were in poor condition due to lack of maintenance.
Over a period of time people outside the park had come to the park, misused the facilities , used the park as a hangout for gangs, loud and rowdy parties and drug dealing. In an attempt to control these activities the city erected a fence around the park. This did not help to control the activities and the fence fell into disrepair and was unsightly.
A September 5,1990 an article in the News Sentinel reported that a revitalization plan for Island Home Park had been submitted to the Knoxville City Council. The plan was the work of a Mr. David Kendall, a landscape architect of the firm of Kendall-Versen.The plan called for a four to five year implementation period and included major items as follows: 1. External landscaping and planting 2.Additional playground equipment 3.Repair of the asphalt tennis court 4. the existing fence to be removed 5.a walking trait to be laid out through the wooded area of the park 6. The walking trail to be supplemented by nature trails T.the park banks along the river to be rip-rapped with stone. 8. An open-air pavilion to be constructed on the southeast comer of the park next to the playground equipment. 9. Picnic tables and benches to be added to the park. 10-City officials to continue their efforts to secure grants and to use their workforce to maintain the park and its facilities.
The article further reported that the plan had enthusiastic backing from Knoxville city officials as well as the Island Home neighborhood association Joe Hultquist, the president of the association commented that” The park is an ideal neighborhood park .With what we are doing this can be a model for other neighborhood parks.11
The revitalization was kicked into action with the help of city council member Hoyle McNeil when he donated funds from an account reserved for “Pet Projects’*. Gary Underwood, McNeil’s successor on the board, continued the practice of donating funds, at various times, from his reserve account.
In 1991, the city made major expenditures to revitalize the park. New playground equipment was installed, the fence removed, the tennis court repaired, the grounds were cleaned up and many new trees and shrubs were planted. Some additional parking was added on the east side , next to Estelle Circle.With increased police monitoring and greater awareness by neighborhood residents , the undesirable characters who misused the park were for the most part eliminated . The river banks have been stabilized with heavy stone rip-rap donated by the Vulcan Quarry. Some portions of the banks have been stabilized using mesh type rubber mats. Residents of the neighborhood assisted in the work done on the banks, A walking trail was cleared through the heavily wooded area along the riverbank from the park to where Willis Place buts into Spence Place.
The plan was to extend the walking frail to the entrance of Island Home Airport. However, the recently paved extension of the 8 foot wide Ijams Greenway from Ijams Nature Center to the park absorbed the walking frail into the park as a part of it’s completion.
Private citizens made contributions to the enhancement of the park.Ms.Chloe Chitwood, a longtime resident of the park and active in the Neighborhood Association ,donated a beautiful marble park bench in the year 2000. This bench is located on the northwest end of the park.Sometime later the four children of James and Geneva Day donated a very attractive metal park bench as a memorial to their parents. This bench is located in the northeast side of the park. Both of these benches provide a wonderful view of the river. Ms. Chitwood also donated a blue spruce tree dedicated to the children in the neighborhood. The tree is decorated at Christmas and other holiday seasons.The tree is located at the intersection of Spence and Watson Places.
In 2003 the Island Home Park Neighborhood Association purchased a water fountain which the city installed near the Estelle Circle park entrance. The city has provided several new picnic tables and benches placed through the park. In 2004 the asphalt tennis court was resurfaced using a professional type of material. Additional parking has been added along the park at Estelle Circle. In the year 2005 the park met most of the objectives voiced at the meeting in 1990 concerning plans for revitalization. It is a very nice park where families and individuals can stroll, picnic, play and meditate , feeling that they are in a safe , trouble free and beautiful environment. People should come and judge for themselves.
By Bernard B. Strange
2237 Island Home Boulevard