January 26, 2021 TVA Joins UT as Principal Partner in Tennessee RiverLine

The Tennessee Valley Authority joins the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as a principal partner in the Tennessee RiverLine, North America’s next great regional trail system. TVA’s elevated commitment of a $1.2 million investment will accelerate the progress of this regional initiative, which was founded in the UT College of Architecture and Design’s School of Landscape Architecture in 2016.

With its transformational financial support, TVA not only elevates its leadership in the project but also strengthens its partnership with UT to invest in the economic development, healthy lifestyles, and environmental stewardship of our region—areas the organization has prioritized throughout its history.

aerial view of kayakers on river

“TVA strives to invest in what we like to call power partnerships, those alliances that reflect our 1933 mandate from Congress to ‘make life better for the people of the Tennessee Valley,’” said TVA Vice President of River and Resources Stewardship David Bowling. “Eighty-eight years ago, when TVA went to work building dams that made the Tennessee River navigable, provided flood control and created electricity, the dream of a 652-mile regional trail system would have been unthinkable, but today, that vision is coming to fruition. It is one that TVA is proud to support financially and with the expertise of team members who manage the river and its 11,000 miles of shoreline on a daily basis.”

Soon after establishment of the Tennessee RiverLine in 2016, TVA began investing financial support and other resources to ensure its initial success. Together, UT and TVA will help sustain the momentum and continue growing the initiative’s influence on communities across the region.

“Our university and all those who carry the Volunteer spirit remain committed to our land-grant mission and to inspiring the communities of our state and region who look to us for leadership in the pursuit of health and prosperity—benefits that will be achieved through the Tennessee RiverLine,” said Scott Poole, dean of the college. “UT is committed to investing in and advocating for our region, the people who call it home, and our treasured natural resources so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The Tennessee RiverLine is a vision for a 652-mile continuous system of paddle, hike, and bike trail experiences along the entire length of the Tennessee River, from Knoxville to Paducah, Kentucky. The initiative transforms the way Tennessee River communities and more than 2.4 million residents relate to, experience, and understand the river.

aerial view of river and bridge

Since 2016, the Tennessee RiverLine has involved more than 60 UT students in trail system planning, amenity design and programming for river communities, and conducting research with a pilot group of five river communities that in turn have formed project leadership teams, offered new river experiences and amenities, and applied for state and federal funding. The initiative recently welcomed 15 communities, representing 35 cities and counties and 836,000 citizens, as members of the inaugural Tennessee RiverTowns Program cohort. In 2020 the initiative earned national, regional, and state awards and released its first comprehensive research findings and recommendations.

As principal partners, UT and TVA take a leadership role in ensuring the Tennessee RiverLine becomes an engine for resilient economies and an infrastructure of public health for generations of residents, eco-tourists, and adventure seekers.

“We are honored that TVA has joined UT in providing essential sustained leadership, advocacy, and investment in the Tennessee RiverLine,” said Brad Collett, associate professor of landscape architecture and director of the initiative. “This partnership enables critical progress toward the Tennessee RiverLine’s vision and its economic development, public health, and environmental stewardship imperatives that unite our two missions to the benefit of the constituencies we serve.”

The Tennessee RiverLine is administrated by the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership, a diverse group that includes UT; TVA; the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program; and several other organizations and agencies.

The Tennessee RiverLine is a region-wide, multi-generational initiative directed by Assoc. Professor Brad Collett in the UT College of Architecture and Design and Herbert College of Agriculture. This unique academic partnership extends the outreach, enriches the research and strengthens the vision of the Tennessee RiverLine.

About the University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is the state’s flagship research university, a campus of choice for outstanding undergraduates, and a premier graduate institution. As a land-grant university with an enrollment of more than 30,000, the institution fulfills its access mission through a commitment to excellence in learning, scholarship, and engagement. For more than 225 years, Volunteers have been lighting the way for others, across Tennessee and throughout the world.

About the Tennessee Valley Authority

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system, and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.

Download a fact sheet (PDF) about the historic partnership.