By Mike Steely

Senior Writer

The neighborhood of South Woodlawn is bounded, roughly, by East Moody Avenue and Chapman Highway, with the Urban Wilderness next door. It’s one of Knoxville’s most active and involved areas and a very influential area in South Knoxville.

The Knoxville Focus continues its Neighborhood stories with an interview with Janice Tocher, president of the South Woodlawn Neighborhood Association.

Tell us in general about your neighborhood.

Nestled in the heart of South Knoxville, the South Woodlawn Neighborhood (SWNA) is easily accessible from both Chapman Highway and James White Parkway. We are home to Sam Duff Park, South-Doyle Middle School, Woodlawn Christian Church, South Knoxville Worship Center, Young High Church of Christ, Woodlawn Cemetery, South Knoxville Library and businesses along Chapman Highway. We also border Baker Creek Preserve, part of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

We are a diverse community representing multiple ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds. Our community partner, Woodlawn Christian Church, provides outreach services and English language classes to our growing Asian and Latinx community. Our residents are comprised of entrepreneurs, executives and assorted professionals, skilled trade workers, university professors, public safety personnel, retirees, and young families.

Our neighborhood is environmentally conscious and nature-loving. We are proud to have become the first community in Tennessee to have achieved certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, and we are working with other neighborhoods to help them achieve this prestigious designation. South Woodlawn has benefited tremendously from interest in the Urban Wilderness which has bolstered residential real estate transactions and brought new homeowners to the area. We are a community of adventure.

How often do the officers or members meet?

Membership meets in the odd months of the year with the exception of trading September meeting for National Night Out in October. The board meets in the even months of the year.

What are the goals of SWNA?

– Get to know neighbors through social events,

– Protect and enhance neighborhood strengths.

– Find workable remedies for neighborhood problems.

– Form neighborhood crime watch areas with assistance from the KPD.

– Have a strong, collective voice with City Council, County Commission, School Board and other government agencies on matters affecting the neighborhood.

– Join with other South Knoxville associations on shared goals and concerns.

Tell us about the neighborhood’s past efforts and future goals?

We’re the first neighborhood in the state of Tennessee to become certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat. In order to become certified, we worked two years doing different educational activities in the neighborhood.

We submitted an application to the Boyd Foundation for a Dog Park at Sam Duff Park and this site was selected by the city for the new South Knoxville Dog Park.

We received grant money to install a bike repair station in Sam Duff Park for the many bicyclists in our neighborhood. We also received grant money to install a bike repair station at Baker Creek Preserve.

We are working cooperatively with Elmington Capital Group, developers of Young High Flats, where they will plant native plants in the park for residents benefit and ours. We are working on a goal to make Sam Duff Park a certified arboretum.

We have a ‘School Outreach Committee’ that works on small scale needs in three different schools including, Dogwood Elementary, Mooreland Heights Elementary, and South Doyle Middle.

We received a grant to put up ‘Welcome to South Woodlawn Neighborhood’ signs at the primary entrances of the neighborhood that were installed in 2021.

As part of our work to become a certified Wildlife Habitat, we organized and raised funds for an outdoor classroom and ‘labitat’ at South-Doyle Middle School.

We participate in an annual Baker Creek Clean-up, which we have combined with the South Knoxville Clean-up that Keep Knoxville Beautiful sponsors.

We worked with an Eagle Scout on his project to get our informational kiosk and community bulletin board built in Sam Duff Park.

  • We are committed to working with future developers in the neighborhood to ensure the neighborhood is kept abreast of what is happening, foster a mutually respectful relationship, and safeguard neighborhood qualities.
  • We have hosted many neighborhood gatherings, including a 2020 ‘Full House’ membership outreach dinner and a 2019 Memorial Day Picnic in the park, and hope to do many more.
  • We are working with the city on traffic calming for several streets in our neighborhood.
  • We have also successfully fought crime in our area.

Future Goals:

  • Finish work to make Sam Duff Park a certified arboretum.
  • Explore feasibility of creating a pollinator garden at Sam Duff Park
  • Ongoing work to maintain our NWF habitat status.


What projects or efforts is the neighborhood focused on now?

  • Certifying Sam Duff Park as an arboretum
  • Welcoming new neighbors with welcome bags provided by SKNBC and information specific to SWNA.
  • Continued support for our School Outreach. NOTE: each July, we do a donation drive at our membership meeting encouraging members to bring items for each school to kick off the new school year.
  • Continued representation as a part of SKNBC to collaborate with other South Knoxville neighborhoods.
  • Continued work with the city on traffic calming.

Who is your city council member and commission member? Does the neighborhood interact with those elected officials?

  • City Council – Tommy Smith
  • County Commission – Carson Dailey
  • We interact more with city council since commission meets on our regularly scheduled membership meetings, however we get great support from both our elected officials

What are the attractions, parks, business types, etc. in the neighborhood?

  • Sam Duff park and playground, borders Baker Creek Preserve, 3 churches, retail on Chapman. We recently welcomed residents of Young High Flats, an affordable housing development.
  • Part of our work to become certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat, we worked with South Doyle Middle School science teacher to build an outdoor classroom and labitat.

Does the association or group hold scheduled events, annually, etc.

  • Typically, we participate in the Roots in South Knoxville Spring Fling and SoKnoWeen Fall Frenzy events at Dogwood Elementary School.
  • We participate in the Keep Knoxville Beautiful South Knoxville cleanup event
  • We hold an event recognizing National Night Out in October
  • We typically have a picnic at Sam Duff park recognizing Memorial Day in May.