City takes over Ftn. City Lake and park

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Alicia and Michael Barrett fish in the waters of Fountain City Lake on Tuesday night after City Council voted to accept the lake and nearby Fountain City Park from their longtime keepers, the local Lion’s Club. Photo by J.J. Stambaugh.

The assorted waterfowl who basked in the moonlight on the shores of Fountain City Lake on Tuesday night didn’t have anything to say about their home’s new owners, not even after being fed a double handful of breadcrumbs. Nothing intelligible to reporters, anyhow.

But the humans who shared their view of the lake’s namesake fountain were at least marginally more talkative as they cast lure after lure into the darkened waters in the hopes of landing a rainbow trout or two.

As far as they were concerned, City Council’s decision to take possession of the lake as well as nearby Fountain City Park was a swell idea so long as it meant the two properties are kept up properly. 

Alicia and Michael Barrett are newcomers to Knoxville, having moved their family from northern Georgia only a month or so ago. The ended up moving to the North Knoxville community of Fountain City and almost immediately noticed the small lake on Broadway that always seemed to be packed with families. 

“We just live down the road, and when we came down this way we saw the fountain and the lake,” Alicia explained. “We brought the kids down and they fed the ducks, and then we got our fishing licenses and here we are, trying it out.”

The Barretts said they’d learned a bit about the lake and the City’s plans for it from local news outlets.

“It’s really peaceful out here,”Alicia said, gesturing toward the column of water as it flickered in the illumination of a green spotlight. “I love the way they’ve got that lit up. I don’t know all that’s happened, but it’s a good thing if they keep it up.”

Only a couple of hours earlier, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon had explained to City Council that ensuring the continued upkeep of the lake and park was the primary reason behind the property transfer. 

The Fountain City Lion’s Club had owned and operated the two properties since it’s charter in 1942. As the decades passed, however, the cost of maintaining them had simply grown beyond the ability of a community organization like the Lion’s Club to handle, prompting the group to offer them to the City free of charge.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the donation, clearing the way for the properties to become the City’s 93rd park. The club will keep its building and can still host events on the property under the terms of the agreement.

Known by many as “The Duck Pond,” the manmade lake has served as home to ducks and other waterfowl. It’s also regularly stocked with fish, and generations of Knoxvillians learned the basics of fishing in its shallow waters.

Since 2014, the City has spent more than $750,000 to fix the lake’s major water-quality problems caused by stagnant water, thick algae, and too many waterfowl. The City fixed a leak in the lake’s earthen berm so water levels could be managed and repaired the fountain and pump house to aerate the water. Wetlands were planted to remove shallow, stagnant areas that were conducive to algae growth.  Several thick layers of muck and duck feces, algae and invasive plants have also been removed from the lake.

City officials have already budgeted more than $1 million to improve the lake’s water quality. The 2021-22 budget has $250,000 going toward bringing the playground up to Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards and making improvements to the paved trail that winds around much of the 8-acre park’s perimeter.

“We’re happy to take over now,” Kincannon said Tuesday. “Maintaining the park has become increasingly expensive, especially managing the lake. So when the Fountain City Lion’s Club asked for assistance, and we’ve been glad to help them. We are here to help. We are committed to making sure the Fountain City Park remains a gathering place for many generations to come.”

Fountain City Lake’s namesake fountain glitters in a spotlight Tuesday night. Photo by Jenna Stambaugh.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com

Published on June 30, 2021