Baker Creek Preserve Offers Unique Experiences in the Urban Wilderness

Carol Evans, Legacy Parks Foundation Executive Director, Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Carol Evans, Legacy Parks Foundation Executive Director, Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

It’s an oddity Knoxville residents are coming to accept, though it would likely still be jarring to an out-of-town visitor who hadn’t been prepared: Hundreds of acres of inter-connected, forested trails for riding, running and walking located just minutes from the urban core of the city. The Baker Creek Preserve represents a one-hundred acre, 2013, donation by the Wood family. Easily accessible, it is quickly becoming a favorite spot for young biking enthusiasts, runners of all ages and advanced cyclists.

On a recent beautiful afternoon, Urban Woman and I took the opportunity to check it out. Located near the end of the James White Parkway, it is hoped that the entrance will eventually be there, though it is currently located at 3700 Lancaster Dr. Upon our arrival, we found local sculptor Kelly Brown of Bower Bird Sculpture, along with Wilson Browning lifting a structure designed for children. The site is connected to South Doyle Middle by a recently developed trail, providing easy access to the burgeoning park. It also borders several south Knoxville neighborhoods, at least one of which has developed their own connecting trail.

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban WiWilson Browning, Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016lderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Wilson Browning, Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Kelly Brown and Wilson Browning, Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Kelly Brown and Wilson Browning, Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Carol Evans, Executive Director of Legacy Parks, which manages the Urban Wilderness, met us there and explained the park is not only the result of the generous donation from the Wood family, but of a number of grants allowing for the building of trails and other amenities. A $200,000 state grant to Legacy Parks for construction of recreational trails coincided with a $15,000 matching grant won by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club. The most publicized and best known grant may be the grant from Bell Helmets who provided $100,000 for  a Double Black Diamond trail – the highest rating given to a bike trail – to be developed on the property. The resulting .6 mile Devil’s Racetrack Downhill is a special trail attracting advanced riders from throughout the region.

The focal point for development at the moment is an area specifically for children. Earthadelic completed the landscape design and the Siddiqi Foundation provided the materials. The Professional Trailbuilder’s Association agreed to construct the trail connecting the park and the school. It’s a trail that also serves as a safe way for students to walk to school. REI also provided a grant to Legacy Parks and the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club. The result is a children’s pump track for starters – a place for children to practice trail riding.

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

The plot includes a 1.2 mile easy loop for walking or biking, but also includes “bike only” trails of progressing difficulty shooting off the main loop. Ms. Evans explained this is the first part of the urban wilderness to feature trails exclusively for bikes, given that on the site, “there are sufficient trails for everyone.” Eventually it will become more of a proper bike park as additional amenities are added. It is connected to the twelve-mile main loop, as well as the additional forty-two miles of spur trails via the Redbud Bridge.

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Reserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

Baker Creek Preserve, Urban Wilderness, Knoxville, October 2016

The property, which was thoroughly logged in an earlier era, still includes some very old Sycamore trees, including the large one pictured here with Ms. Evans. You’ll find it along the Sycamore trail named for that tree. The dog friendly trails also include “Best Medicine” trail, so named for retired physician Kevin Zirkle who has devoted many hours to trail building. Pappy’s Way, named after a local moonshiner, takes hikers to some of the best views afforded from the property, with the windmills of Buffalo Mountain and the Smoky Mountains visible in the distance. Turn around and you might catch a glimpse of the Knoxville Skyline.

This special place will be highlighted by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club when they host their Fall Festival, Saturday, November 5. You’ll find group rides and skills classes for all levels. Races, music, beer, silent auctions and lots of fun for the children, with a climbing wall and climbing nets, as well as that cool structure you saw being erected in the photos above. Lunch will be available from the Sweet and Savory Truck and dinner will be available from Sweet P’s BBQ.

Whether you make the fall festival, I’d encourage you to make it out to the park. A parking lot is available beside the old home of Sevier Heights Baptist Church and from there it’s an easy step onto the trail and you are off into a beautiful east Tennessee treasure. Practically in sight of the city. It’s pretty magical. Get out and explore, Knoxville.

Programming note: You’ll hear an interview with Carol Evans November 6 on WUTK, 90.3, at 10:00 AM on Knoxcentric: Powered by Inside of Knoxville. I also hope to have a representative of the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club.

Comments

  1. There’s a loop around Meads quarry that bikes aren’t allowed on plus all of the trails in the Ijams Nature Center area.
    Any of the wider trails allow bikes to easily pass and the bikers I’ve met always slow down. Enjoy!

  2. Is there any place to hike in the Urban Wilderness without the risk of being flattened by speeding mountain bikes?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      Most of the trails are shared, but the advanced bike trails are clearly marked not for hikers. We encountered a couple of nice cyclists and didn’t have any trouble sharing the trail. I don’t think the “risk of being flattened,” is really that high. Has anyone reading this ever had a problem?

      • I’m not sure about the Urban Wilderness. On the greenways out west, yes. They all shriek “ON YOUR LEFT” as loudly and clearly annoyed as possible. Even when you walk as close to the right side of the pavement as possible

        • I understand that someone shouting at you is jarring. They are not wanting you to get further to the right when they call out, “On your left!” It’s just to let you know they are behind you and getting ready to pass. Sure, shouting isn’t polite, but it’s a way to make sure they know I’ve heard them.

          I don’t wear ear buds when I’m out on greenway or trails, but there are plenty of times I just don’t hear a bike approaching behind me until they let me know they are passing. I appreciate the courtesy. Sometimes I’ve been startled by someone passing too close without warning.

          As for the shared trails, there are rules that basically boil down to bikers yeild to hikers. I’ve yet to have a problem with sharing single track trails. There is usually enough space to get over and allow a bike to pass. I would like to hear from some of the biking community about their experiences sharing trails, though.

          Really, now that I think about it, I have had more trouble with other people walking and hiking than bikers. Groups try to walk side by side blocking anyone from passing and people walking the left side of the path instead of the right are common issues. Oh well, things happen I guess.

          • Jen, I agree with you completely. That’s why I think it’s important for bikers or even runners to let others know when they are about to pass on the left. That way no one is surprised.

        • When I am on my bike and overtaking a walker, I like to alert them to the fact that I am about to pass them. I really don’t want to give anyone a fright. Normally I ring my bell, but an “On your left” is another way to alert the walker. It is not meant to be rude. Occasionally we will call out several times when a walker with ear buds inserted and a dog on an extended leash is blocking the width of the pathway.

          • Thank you for warning others Ray. It seems like less bikers are warning people on the greenways. I’ve been startled more than occasionally and have wondered where the considerate bikers have gone.

        • Interesting how people see things differently. I get angry when bikers don’t warn me that they are about to pass me. I do not wear earbuds or listen to anything but nature when I’m running but have still been startled more and more frequently when a bike is suddenly passing me. I don’t have a rear view mirror and the greenways don’t have lanes, and even though I stay to the right, I could possibly veer to the left and get hit by a quiet biker.

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