May 24, 2021 Tennessee RiverLine Celebrates Official Launch

With cheers, confetti and a christening of 60 kayaks bound for river communities, America’s next great regional trail system has been officially launched.

On May 21, 2021, in a celebration on the banks of the Tennessee River, the Tennessee RiverLine launched its public phase, moving from concept to implementation.

This regional initiative for a 652-mile paddle-hike-bike trail all along the Tennessee River has now moved from critical research and concept planning to public outreach, events, grants, equipment and infrastructure investment. This momentum reflects the essential support from principal partners, UT Knoxville and Tennessee Valley Authority, and the support of many other partners.

Following welcome remarks from Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, UT’s Brad Collett, associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and School of Landscape Architecture and director of the Tennessee RiverLine, kicked off the launch celebration, which was held at Suttree Landing Park.

“The Tennessee RiverLine is a trail system like no other,” he said. “It is an infrastructure of tourism, public health, quality of life, equitable river access, environmental stewardship, economic and community development and entrepreneurship.”

Since 2016, the Tennessee RiverLine has conducted critical research and concept programming. So far, 15 river communities are engaged with the Tennessee RiverLine to bring economic development, health benefits, equitable access and environmental stewardship to their citizens.

TVA Vice President, Gas, Hydro and Integration David Bowling shared with an excited crowd, “TVA’s mission is to make the valley a great place to live, work and play,” he said. “TVA has been excited to be on deck for each step of the Tennessee RiverLine journey, but nothing compares to today’s Meet the Fleet, which celebrates Tennessee RiverLine’s vision as it becomes reality.”

TVA has been a supporter of the Tennessee RiverLine since 2016 and in 2021 became a principal partner with UT Knoxville. The power of partnerships makes the momentum of the Tennessee RiverLine possible.

At the celebration, UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman spoke about the power of partnerships and enriching the lives of 2.4 million people in our region.

“As our state’s flagship, land-grant institution, we do our best work when we work alongside and on behalf of people and communities across Tennessee and beyond,” she said. “The Tennessee RiverLine demonstrates the value of investing in inspiration and possibilities.”

Tennessee RiverLine launch event group at kayaks

Beyond celebratory remarks, the launch event included a “Meet the Fleet” celebration, which marked the granting of 60 kayaks to river communities involved with the Tennessee RiverLine’s Tennessee RiverTowns Program. These kayaks, along with safety gear and other accessories, will be available to the communities free of charge for their public events at the river, many of which have been scheduled to take place beginning this month. Other river communities will have the opportunity to apply for the Tennessee RiverTowns Program this summer.

Granting the kayaks is one way the Tennessee RiverLine is making the river accessible to everyone and bringing health benefits and economic development to river communities.

“The fleets of kayaks represent more than recreation gear,” Collett said. “They are infrastructures of experience that unlock the economic, public health and environmental stewardship benefits promised by the Tennessee RiverLine.”

Equitable access to the river was put into action during the launch as many people took advantage of a paddle experience, for many, their first time being in a kayak on the river. Among the kayakers was Chancellor Plowman and UT System President Randy Boyd.

In addition to granting equipment, the public phase of the Tennessee RiverLine includes public programming and vision implementation through infrastructure investment. This spring, the Tennessee RiverLine helped two Tennessee River communities earn $100,000 in Tennessee Department of Health grants to begin master planning of Tennessee RiverLine investments. It also formed an historic collaboration with the Singing River Trail to support the development of a 150-mile greenway system along the Tennessee River in North Alabama.

Through grants, equipment, programs and support, the Tennessee RiverLine is bringing a diversity of people across four states closer to the beloved waterway.

Watch a video from the launch event.

Thank you to Charles Denney, UT Institute of Agriculture, for capturing the video.

About the Tennessee RiverLine

The Tennessee RiverLine is North America’s next great regional trail system, a historic multi-generational initiative that offers economic development, public health, equitable access and environmental stewardship benefits to 2.4 million people in diverse Tennessee River communities in four states. The Tennessee RiverLine is led by the UT School of Landscape Architecture, which is a partnership of the UT College of Architecture and Design and the Herbert College of Agriculture, and principal partners, UT Knoxville and TVA, in collaboration with the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership, a diverse consortium of organizations committed to realizing the vision for the Tennessee RiverLine.

About the Tennessee RiverTowns Program

Registration for the 2022 cohort of Tennessee RiverTowns Program will open in summer 2021. Tennessee River communities interested in becoming a part of the Tennessee RiverLine by enrolling in the program can visit