The secular private school’s leaders have talked for years about relocating, and the city is the most logical party for interest in the land. Ashley shares the block between Lacy and Guaranda Drive with the city’s Metro-Kiwanis Park, a place familiar to anyone who passes by Chief Junaluska, the 30-foot-tall Chestnut Oak carving erected there in 1986.
Metro-Kiwanis, which also features heavily utilized tennis courts and ballfields, is a stone’s throw from the Liberty Bell school and athletics complex.
Incorporating the 15-acre Ashley campus into the park would allow the city several options for expanding recreational services there — using some of the school’s structures, adding more fields/courts or a combination of both. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board once said it would be a good location for an arts or nature center.
Park space is among a city’s greatest assets when it comes to the quality of life it offers. Johnson City has a healthy variety of park spaces with different amenities — the soccer fields at Civitan, the wooded picnic areas at Rotary, the hiking trails at Buffalo Mountain, the dog park at Willow Springs and the ballfields at several locations.
Tourism dollars also are tied to recreational amenities. Johnson City attracts numerous tournaments each year.
So a larger Metro-Kiwanis makes sense — if the finances do, too.
The campus was appraised at $650,000 in 2008. Johnson City, of course, does not have unlimited coffers, so a new fair market assessment of the Ashley property is in order before any meaty discussions can take place.
The Ashley inquiry could be an opportunity for Johnson City to grow its recreational services. The land would definitely be put to good use. Bang for buck is the major question.