Ribbon Cutting for the Re-Constructed Fort Kid Park, Knoxville, March 2023
My child was one of the first generation to enjoy the original Fort Kid built on the hill across from the Knoxville Museum of Art. We participated in the work days to help it come to life. A generation later, her daughter, Urban Girl, enjoyed the same structures, splinters and all. We had a blast chasing each other through the the labyrinthian passageways.
It was memories like these with which Mayor Kincannon began her remarks, asking members of the audience how many of them played there as children. Many hands were raised. She saluted those who brought us the original park and all those memories, even as we dedicated a new, different version. “Here’s to new generations who are going to use this park . . . It’s been so important that we worked to preserve this location as a family-friendly, all-inclusive space for generations to come.”
She acknowledged Beth Waters who she said helped make the original park possible in 1991. She said her role would be commemorated on a marker in the new park. Of the new park, she acknowledged the generous contribution to the new park by Thomas Boyd and family, as well as the financial support from the Downtown Alliance and Visit Knoxville.
She said the playground took a lot of cooperation and collaboration between many city departments, KUB, Hedstrom Landscape Architects, Great Southern Recreation for the design and others. She also thanked the City Council for their support. Victor Ashe, who was mayor at the time the original structures were put into place for the park.
She said extensive community meetings and engagement were held and one message came through clearly: Capture the spirit of the original fort. (wooden elements, climbing opportunities, and slides) She said she feels they did so and added that the new large slide is the largest in the county.
She also emphasized the inclusivity of the park. It is now accessible by wheel chair from two directions, thanks to a long ramp from the street, funded by the Downtown Alliance. Additionally, a merry-go-round is situated at ground level, making it accessible to all children (or their parents). The surface (artificial turf) is also such that anyone can navigate throughout the playground.
Matthew Debardelaben of the Downtown Knoxville Alliance and David Butler, Executive Director of the Knoxville Museum of Art each emphasized that a great day of free entertainment is available between the World’s Fair Park, the KMA, and the playground, all of which are free. Butler said having the refurbished playground makes the museum look better by proxy, likening it to when a neighbor renovates their home elevating the appearance of the neighborhood. He also added, a bit tongue-in-cheek, they were proud to provide the restrooms for the park.
The project required about $1.3 million to complete and is now officially open to the public. After a ribbon cutting with several dozen children joining the mayor, the children quickly tossed the ribbon and ran to the park, the first of hopefully many children to enjoy what it has to offer. You can read more about the history of Fort Kid Park here.