What is the Tennessee RiverLine?
The Tennessee RiverLine is a vision for a continuous system of multi-modal trail experiences such as paddling, hiking, and biking along the 652-mile Tennessee River from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Paducah, Kentucky. 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 concept for the Tennessee RiverLine was first proposed in 2016 by a student in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, School of Landscape Architecture. 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. River communities that are invested as part of the Tennessee RiverLine benefit from economic development and entrepreneurship opportunities, quality of life amenities, and increased access to river experiences that improve public health and generations of river advocates that are active participants in its stewardship.
The vision is to
- Celebrate the beauty, diversity, and history of the Tennessee River Valley;
- Connect the people and communities of the Valley to each other, our river heritage, and the Tennessee River landscape; and
- Catalyze new investments, economic opportunities, social health, and ecological stewardship.
Grants, Awards, and Phases
- 2023 Outstanding Program Award from Kentucky Recreation & Parks Society
On November 15, 2023, the Kentucky Recreation & Parks Society’s (KRPS) honored the Paducah-McCracken County Tennessee RiverLine program with the Outstanding Program Award – Class 4 for its free paddling events. Monthly from June through October, the community could register for a single or tandem kayak for a river experience of nearly five miles. These free kayak adventures launched from Clarks River Landing with paddlers enjoying the Clarks River and Tennessee River and ending at the Foot of Broadway on the Ohio River in downtown Paducah. Transportation for participants to the launch area was provided by Lone Oak First Baptist Church and Paducah’s Planning Department. Those who had their own canoes or kayaks also could register for the free event and benefit from the transportation to the launch area. The Paducah-McCracken County Tennessee RiverLine program is a partnership among the Tennessee RiverLine organization, the City of Paducah, McCracken County, and local partner agencies. The Paducah Parks & Recreation Department helped facilitate the paddling events by coordinating the registration process and promoting the events on social media.
- 2022 Extra Mile Award
Suzi Davidson, who serves as assistant director of recreation in the Parks & Recreation Department, also advances the efforts of the Tennessee RiverLine initiative in Paducah/McCracken County. On January 25, 2023, at the annual summit, TN RiverLine presented Suzi with the Extra Mile Award for her efforts to make sure local events which included free paddling events on the Clarks and Tennessee rivers were well organized.
- 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Community Impact Grant
In May 2022, the Tennessee RiverLine announced that Paducah-McCracken County is a recipient of a 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Community Impact Grant. This grant to support initiatives that foster inclusive engagement with the Tennessee River is made possible through the support of Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Funds will be used to provide free beginner swim lessons for 30 youth and adults at Noble Park Pool during the summer of 2022. The River Discovery Center partnered with the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club, the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP, West Kentucky Community & Technical College, and the Paducah Parks & Recreation Department for the lessons.
- 2021 Tennessee RiverLine Award - Excellence in River Animation
The Tennessee RiverLine announced the winners of its 2021 awards at the 5th annual Summit held January 25 and 26, 2022. Paducah-McCracken County received the Excellence in River Animation award for demonstrating an exemplary commitment to breaking down access barriers to river spaces and experiences through river animation programming that is safe, inclusive and innovative. Paducah/McCracken County’s local leadership team have taken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to river animation event planning. Training experiences at local pools and multiple small events on area rivers are helping build a culture of safe and inclusive paddling among diverse community members and organizations, highlighted through the leadership of the Inland Waterways Museum (previously known as River Discovery Center) and an emerging collaboration with the Oscar Cross Boys & Girls Club.
- Phase I - Paducah/McCracken County Selected as Pilot Community for Tennessee RiverLine Partnership
Paducah/McCracken County started this journey as a Pilot Community for the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership. During the summer of 2019, Paducah/McCracken County and four other selected communities along the Tennessee River helped develop the vision of the Tennessee RiverLine, North America’s next great regional trail system by sharing feedback and new ideas. Paducah applied to the Pilot Community Program because the "River" is Paducah’s heritage and a key economic driver for our manufacturing, logistics, and tourism industries.
As a Pilot Community with the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership, Paducah/McCracken County focused on three elements:
- Community leader workshop (held August 14, 2019);
- Community engagement event (held August 15, 2019; and
- Survey and engagement tool (online survey tool is called River Gauge).
A summary report of the feedback collected during the pilot program including project recommendations focusing on recreation, stewardship, and river access can be found at Tennessee RiverLine Pilot Community Report. Feedback gathered during the pilot community program period was used to shape the Tennessee RiverLine vision and identify local pilot projects for implementation.
"The RiverLine Project will help us work together on seeing the untapped potential of our river and to advance projects that further the work we’ve been doing to transform our community, grow our local economy, and shape the environments we live in."
Why Select Paducah?
Investment: Over the past seven years, Paducah has invested $7.4 million in infrastructure to support recreational activities along our riverfront. This investment includes
- More than 5 miles of Greenway Trail with expansion underway and connection to the McCracken County Trail System;
- A 340-foot Transient Boat Dock which received the Boater's Choice Award;
- A five-lane public boat ramp (Ohio River Boat Launch) that supports a variety of personal water craft;
- A tie-up location of riverboat cruises at the foot of Broadway.
- Approximately two dozen riverboats visit Paducah's historic downtown annually.
Connection and Future Opportunities: The Tennessee RiverLine Project connects our community to other communities along the river that have a shared history and will help us envision a more vibrant riverfront. A riverfront that enables all of us to come not just to the river’s edge but to get onto the water and experience Paducah from the river, looking back onto the land. If we change our perspective of Paducah by experiencing it from the river, what new opportunities will open up to us? Opportunities could look like these options:
- New recreational opportunities such as kayaking, canoeing, and other forms of human-powered boating;
- A marina that accommodates a greater variety and number of vessels;
- Education, restoration, and stewardship of the vibrant fish and plant life under the water that we don’t see every day;
- New opportunities to show our region the importance of the river industry, its role in moving everything we touch and buy, and how there is a pathway to good, highly skilled jobs already here in Paducah.
The Tennessee RiverLine Partnership selected the Pilot Communities from a pool of 17 applicants. The five Pilot Communities are as follows:
- Paducah/McCracken County, Kentucky;
- Roane County, Tennessee;
- Bridgeport, Alabama;
- The Shoals, Alabama (Florence-Muscle Shoals MSA); and
- Benton County, Tennessee.
Resolution and Celebration (March-May 2019)
An event was held May 15, 2019, at the River Discovery Center to celebrate Paducah/McCracken County's selection as a Pilot Community. The celebration included City of Paducah and McCracken County representatives and partner organizations including BikeWorld, Hooper’s Outdoor Center, River Discovery Center, and Seamen’s Church Institute.
The Paducah Board of Commissioners approved a joint resolution with the McCracken County Fiscal Court to apply as a Pilot Community at its March 26, 2019, Commission meeting.
- Phase II - Paducah/McCracken County Named in the Tennessee RiverTowns Program
On October 22, 2020, Paducah-McCracken County officially was named as one of the 15 Tennessee River communities selected for the inaugural cohort of the Tennessee RiverTowns Program. Paducah-McCracken County and Calvert City are the only Kentucky communities in the Program. We are now beginning our journey to become an official Tennessee RiverTown and part of the Tennessee RiverLine, North America’s next great regional trail system incorporating a continuous system of paddling, hiking and biking experiences along the Tennessee River’s 652-mile reach.
On October 23, 2020, Paducah-McCracken County, Calvert City, and the River Discovery Center held a celebration on Paducah's riverfront to announce the selection of both communities for the inaugural cohort of the Tennessee RiverTowns Program. Each of these two communities is beginning its journey to become an official Tennessee RiverTown and part of the Tennessee RiverLine.
A local leadership team will work to advance Paducah-McCracken County through the Tennessee RiverTowns Program. Team members are as follows:
- Jeff Canter, Architect with PFGW
- Matt Cherry, Hooper's Outdoor Center
- Amie Clark, Parks & Recreation Department Director
- Steve Ervin, Project Manager for McCracken County
- River Discovery Center Executive Director