By Mike Steely

Don’t you wish your neighborhood was located adjacent to a greenway or park? Some lucky ones are and the access to greenways and parks is an advantage to residents who can simply walk out of their homes and through their neighborhoods to enter nature.

One such area is Lake Forest in South Knoxville. Not only does the neighborhood have a Dogwood Trail and access to the Gary Underwood Greenway and Park just across Chapman Highway, but now has a gateway to enter the William Hastie Natural Area. The connection with the Hastie area is an effort of the local neighborhood association and funds are currently being raised  to create a new sign at the entrance to the trail on Post Oak Drive.

The Hastie Natural Area is part of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness, a recreational, cultural and historic preservation initiative promoted by Legacy Parks Foundations. It has 1,000 forested acres along the south waterfront and creates a corridor that invites residents and visitors to the special area. It features 50 miles of multi-use trails, ten parks, four Civil War sites, great views and natural features.

“I believe that Lake Forest was the first neighborhood to partner with Appalachian Mountain Bike Club to build trails,” said Molly Gilbert, president of the Lake Forest Neighborhood Association.

The Hastie Area itself has 4.7 miles of trails for mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners and links with the Ross Marble Quarry and Ijams Nature Center.

The Forest Park neighborhood is just four miles from downtown and five miles from the UT Campus. The neighborhood organization, according to Gilbert, has been working with Legacy Parks, Outdoor Knoxville and Urban Wilderness to create a sign at the entrance to the Hastie trail. Fundraising, according to Gilbert, is about halfway to the $3,000 goal and has included selling bows created by the Chapman Highway Garden Club during the Dogwood Festival; creating stationery notecards and photography enlargements prints of the neighborhood welcome sign; and a future neighborhood directory.

“The directory, which I believe will be the first of its kind for a neighborhood, will be distributed to all residents, which is just under 200 households,” Gilbert said. Ads from local businesses are being sought for the publication.

“All our fundraising efforts have been coordinated by volunteers,” she said, adding, “We’d like to have the Urban Wilderness sign in place in Hastie by spring of 2017.”

The completed sign will not only give information and maps of the trail but, on the back, will have information about the neighborhood.

Ongoing efforts of the very active neighborhood group include beautification efforts along the Chapman Highway Trail, including trash pickup; coordinating holiday activities with the Lake Forest Presbyterian Church, including Trunk or Treat on Halloween; and adopting the Hastie trail for trash pickup, improvements and maintenance in conjunction with the Mountain Bike Club.

The Lake Forest neighborhood includes Island Home Pike, Chapman Highway, West Red Bud Drive, Sarvis Drive, Stone Road, Oliver Road, Neubert Springs Road, Martin Mill Pike to Ogle Drive, Doyle Street, Maryville Pike, Moody Avenue, East Red Bud Road and Gilbert Avenue.

It is known as a peaceful area with unique charm, shade trees, walkable streets with scenic views, private yards, many marble features in homes, and, obviously, active homeowners.

You can contact Molly Gilbert at (865) 209-1820 or find the neighborhood on Facebook at Lake Forest Neighborhood Association, Knoxville. The next meeting of the group is August 8th at the Presbyterian Church, 714 Lake Forest Drive, on the lower level.