Green Playces: Knoxville

Grounded’s Green Playces Initiative returned to the Hilltop in 2018.  In 2015-2016, Grounded partnered with the Brashear Association helping to reshape one of Allentown’s empty lots into a Green Playce for children to play. It included repurposing a blighted vacant lot adjacent to the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center into a suitable lot for play.  Much of the lot was empty pavement, and the back of the space was a slope covered in invasive weeds. Today it is a lively play space designed by the community for the community.

During the summer 2018, Green Playces was back and better than ever working in the Hilltop neighborhood of Knoxville. The Hilltop neighborhoods include Knoxville, Allentown, Beltzhoover, Mt. Oliver, and St. Clair. The Knoxville community is the fifth largest neighborhood by geographic size without recreational green space. The need for outdoor play opportunities has been a high priority for residents.

Grounded knows that outdoor play is valuable on all levels.  More importantly, the safety of children is at the core of the Green Playces Initiative.  Through community driven models, Grounded Strategies has developed many successful play spaces throughout the city that are reflections of the character and needs of the neighborhoods. Enrichment of the communities through Green Playces sites continues to help deliver on our mission to empower communities through change.  Our Green Playces program is a great fit for the type of interactive green space desired by the Knoxville Community.

Together the members of the Knoxville Community Council (KCC), Kingdom of Life Fellowship Church, and Economic Development South have partnered with Grounded Strategies to implement a Green Playce site in Knoxville that is out of this world (pun intended!).  The parcel was a wildly unmaintained vacant lot of green grasses and invasive weeds. Our partners at Landforce helped to clear the lot and increase access to the site with the construction of new steps. Through a charrette process, the children of the Kingdom Life Fellowship Church after-school program reimagined the site as a creative and engaging space for all kinds of play and learning.  They worked with Grounded’s team to come up with potential design patterns to reclaim the space as theirs.  The constant theme recognized by the group resembled outer-space concepts. The space theme was combined with a bit of local history – the area’s early days as fruit fields and orchards. In fact, Jucunda Street, which borders the site, was the name of a strawberry variety grown there.

Shaping the vacant space into a galactic Green Playces site took several community days and many volunteer hours. Furthermore, the project space emphasized recycled and sustainable materials to increase the awareness of the global need to reduce the use of non-recyclable products. Features included rocket and strawberry shaped chalkboards, balance beams, a picnic table and benches and a brightly-painted spaceship!