Yesterday morning, before embarking on our usual Saturday walk, Emily and I did something different: we engaged in a little community service. Along with some other folks, we spent an hour picking up trash at Fort Dickerson Quarry.
This cleanup is a monthly affair–the third Saturday of every month, from 11 to 12–sponsored by South Knox Alliance, a group of local business owners who promote South Knoxville and who have adopted part of the park.
Although I was a South Knoxville resident–our first home was in the Lake Forest neighborhood–for six years, it’s been 13 years since we lived there. So what were Emily and I doing picking up trash south of the river? Well, we were invited by a dear friend, Antoinette Fritz, who is a long time South Knox resident, a business owner (Myrtle’s Mess), and a tireless promoter of the area.
I have known Antoinette since I met her in the kindergarten pick up line when her Andie Rae and my Emily were five-year-olds at St. Joseph School. As they say, we go way back. In those days we bonded as pretty much the only South Knoxville residents with kids at the school. Back then I used to think how much I wished I had a venue in which to write about Antoinette, who is one of the most interesting people I have ever come across. She had a small antique/junk store at that time, which just happened to be on our way home from school, and we spent many afternoons there browsing her wares and just hanging out.
Before I lived there, South Knoxville was primarily a place I drove through to get somewhere else (i.e. the mountains). I had no clue that it held such wonders as Fort Dickerson and its quarry lake. When we moved there, Fort Dickerson had an unsavory reputation but I was too naive to know anything about that, and drove up there one day out of curiosity. It was then I got my first glimpse of the quarry–which was supposedly off-limits at that time, although I’m sure it had its share of intrepid teenage swimmers and perhaps murderers looking to hide bodies.
I was amazed by that first glimpse–could this be Knoxville or had I somehow stumbled through a rip in space? I could not believe that such an incredible sight was right here, a mile or so from downtown, and that no one who didn’t live in South Knoxville knew anything about it!
Things have changed in South Knoxville since those days, as you will know if you’ve read any of my posts on the Urban Wilderness and its trails, or as you may have heard on the news regarding the plans for the riverfront. Fort Dickerson and the quarry lake are part of all those plans–they will one day be included in the trail system though I hope not before Emily and I finish walking the current 40 miles and get our badges!
Antoinette has been excited about and supportive of the writing I’ve been doing about the trails, and she has been inviting me to come to the cleanup for awhile. Yesterday’s outing was co-sponsored by Trek South, and promised a picnic, so we decided to include the quarry in our weekly South Knoxville excursion.
We were supplied with gloves, trash-picking-up devices (is there a name for those?), and garbage bags by Carl Hensley, organizer of the cleanup. We just about filled ours with beer and soda cans and bottles, cigarettes, and assorted discarded clothing, among other things, as we walked along the partly-paved trail from the parking lot to the quarry. Along the way we enjoyed close-up views of the kudzu that threatens to swallow South Knoxville whole punctuated by wildflowers.
We were rewarded at the end of our journey by views of the quarry itself, and then the aforementioned picnic. Only this wasn’t just any picnic, because it was planned by Antoinette. So there were table cloths and flowers, and Salade Nicoise and french bread were served alongside more typical picnic fare.
If you or a group you are associated with is looking for service hours, feel free to just show up and join in the efforts to keep South Knoxville Beautiful. And if you are looking for a beautiful spot to hike or picnic, add Fort Dickerson Park to your list.
For more information on places to hike in South Knoxville, see these previous posts: