Don Williams
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Stopping one bad road could save all our state parks
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   09/07/2001)

Notes on roads & parks

* The money saved by stopping one road from being built would be enough to save all the parks in Tennessee from shutting down, if the law allowed. You do the math. Gov. Don Sundquist recently announced the state will shut down or curtail services in at least 14 state parks, including the beloved Norris Dam, Big Ridge, Frozen Head and Panther Creek, for a total savings of about $3 million.

Meanwhile, to gouge a proposed three-mile interstate-style connector through the neighborhoods and wooded hills of South Knoxville--a looping expressway from Moody Avenue to Chapman Highway--would cost $33 million, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT; boo, hiss).

To build yet another interstate ring around Nashville, now under construction, will cost $1.2 BILLION. Hmmm, I wonder if that includes a $500,000 fine the Department of Environment and Conservation recently assessed against the project for environmental damage already done.

These are two of many highway projects that should be shut down, in my opinion, given the state's budget crisis. Others include the four-laning of the road through Townsend; a new four-lane through the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus; several new roads and bridges for Sevier, Cocke and Jefferson counties, and many more across the state that no one much wants except those on the TDOT payroll.

* Let's hear it for Mayor Victor Ashe. Whatever else you may think about him, he listened to South Knoxvillians and changed his thinking. First he asked TDOT to build something along the lines of a boulevard rather than an interstate-style connector through South Knoxville. TDOT, in its condescending way, brushed off that idea. Then, following a meeting with concerned citizens, Ashe asked TDOT to drop the South Knoxville connector altogether. We'll watch with interest.

Recently, Ashe went to battle on behalf of some ancient oak trees threatened by interstate construction. Who'd have thunk it; the mayor's turning into a regular tree hugger. I mean that in a good way. Our trees need hugging. They're no doubt a little insecure given the area's runaway development.)

* Speaking of South Knoxville, several people took exception to a phrase in last week's column, when I used the old nickname, "the bridge to nowhere," in reference to the bridge built across the Tennessee River to South Knoxville in the 1980s. Joe Hultquist wrote, "Our singular focus on roads is moving us towards problems of near-disasterous proportions. On a slightly different note... I can assure you we are not 'nowhere.'" It's a point well-taken.

* Liz Farr of South Knoxville made the same point, and added several others: "Chapman is the road that needs fixing. We could use a small portion of the (money) budgeted for the extension to add turn lanes to Chapman Highway. The rest could be donated to the state budget for schools, and then TDOT would be heroes! (her exclamation point). I know the road builders lobby is one of the most powerful, but it's about time that someone notices that the emperor has no clothes and that all that gas tax money could be used for making improvements on existing roads and using the rest for the state budget. Los Angeles County has just announced a moratorium on new roads. Portland Oregon also. Let's get enlightened and recognize the unique treasure we have in Tennessee before we pave it all!" Hear hear.

* If you think the state should reform laws requiring gas taxes to be spent on building roads (that most of us don't want), while parks and schools go begging, let your governor and legislators know. Here's how: