Work on Aspire is getting physical

  • An artist’s rendition of the walkway leading to the community building in The Groves at Aspire Park.

  • Not so much a groundbreaking as a tree-planting at Aspire: From left are Mike Wallace, Joe Hollingsworth Jr., Brenda Starwalt, Nicci Hollingsworth, and J.D. King.

While it seems the world has come to a halt because of a global pandemic, there is something brewing in South Clinton.

Just below the line of sight on your right as you drive along Clinch Avenue heading toward downtown you can see the framing of a building on the Aspire property.

And every day you see a little more — you can see something taking shape.

The ground is still a little squelchy — almost muddy, but not quite. Not so much so that you can’t help but notice a grove of trees spreading out on that same property.

Something’s going on here.

After a winter of physical inactivity, the first phase of building at Aspire Park is underway.

It has been a busy winter for the Hollingsworth Foundation. No, not in actual construction or planting — it’s been too wet for that — but in lining up the planning and permits so that once the weather broke things were going to happen fast.

“The Hollingsworth Foundation has gained 21 of the 24 required permits and Aspire needs ongoing support from City of Clinton, CUB, TDOT and TVA,” Executive Director Mike Wallace said.

He praised those entities Aspire has been working with, noting that without their help and support Aspire wouldn’t be at the point it is now.

That point is The Groves — a community building, the Xchange, and the plethora on trees surrounding it. That is the work you can see when you drive along Clinch Avenue.

And seeing the work from your car window — or even seeing an artist’s rendition — won’t give you the sense — for lack of better words — of wonderment that standing next to it fills you with.

It is literally something to behold.

“I think people are going to like this,” Wallace said.

That could be the understatement of the year.

There is no timetable for completing the lower meadow — Mother Nature has control of that — but when the weather is good, so is the work.

Work is well underway on the Xchange — the community building — that will be able to hosts a farmers’ market, festivals, weddings, etc.

“It’s a gathering place,” Wallace noted. It will be suitable as a wedding venue and hosting birthday parties. There will be grilling areas, comfort stations and parking for 44 vehicles.

The work also includes the planting of 983 trees, with 20 different deciduous species including maple, hickory, magnolia, oak, willow, and elm; and eight different coniferous species including holly, cedar, pine and cypress.

Wallace said every attempt was made to save the old magnolia tree that was on the property. “It was in bad shape … There was a split in the middle of it and it was almost dead.”

Other phases of the park will come, but this first phase will give a hint as to what the future will bring.

Aspire is a legacy park — it will be enjoyed long after the people who see it’s beginning are gone.

“It’s a powerful feeling to be planting trees that I don’t expect to ever enjoy their full shade,” Joe Hollingsworth Jr. said.