Wide Open Spaces

Posted on January 29, 2015

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1797335_723981154301395_449905622_nBy Lees Romano

Change is in the air around Memphis- not necessarily in the seasons, although this winter has been surprisingly sunny, but in many of the resources Memphis offers for exercise, community building, and recreation. In the past year alone, the Shelby Farms Greenline, Shelby Farms Park, and Overton Park have developed plans, undergone enhancements, and created expansions.

In September 2014, Shelby County received permission to extend the Shelby Farms Greenline a few more miles to the east. The Greenline, a 6.5-mile urban trail, links Midtown Memphis to Shelby Farms Park. Managed and operated by the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, the trail is an incredible community asset that provides new opportunities for recreation, exercise, togetherness, healthy activity, commuting, and more. Currently, the rail-line-turned-jogging-trail runs along an abandoned CSX rail corridor from Tillman Street at Walnut Grove Road in Midtown to Farm Road at Mullins Station Road at Shelby Farms Park. There are access points at Tillman Street, Highland Street, High Point Terrace, Graham Street, Waring Road, Podesta Street, Sycamore View Road, and Farm Road.

The Shelby County Public Works Division negotiated a contract with CSX Railroad to purchase the deserted right-of-way from Farm Road to the old Cordova train station. After the expansion is complete, the Greenline will be 10 miles long.

Officials must navigate two major hurdles in the way of the expansion; two active rail lines are blocking the planned path of the Greenline to its eventual end at Tobey Park. The solution is to build a bridge over the rail lines, and the city has received a federal transportation grant for the initial design work. That money will fund an analysis of potential environmental hazards of building a bridge, drainage issues, and how it will fit underneath the Poplar viaduct and over the railroad.

Federal grants will cover 75 percent of the cost; Shelby County government allocated $650,000 and the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy donated the remaining $550,000. Recently added to the Greenline are bike repair stations. The Park Conservancy’s partnership with Conway Services resulted in the installation of four bike repair stations. Each station includes tools necessary to keep bicycles fully functioning on the trails, including an air pump.

The Heart of the Park Enhancement is well underway. The four phases of construction include everything from a new Main Entrance and Visitor Center to an expansion and ecological restoration of Patriot Lake to the new Buffalo Pasture and buffalo relocation. The first phase, the Green Phase, is complete and includes the previously mentioned buffalo areas, the North Patriot Lake Drive off of Farm road, a new Main Entrance off of Farm Road, an additional hike/bike trail, and Section One of the East Patriot Lake Drive. More information on the Blue, Purple, and Orange Phases, as well as other amenities of the expansion that are soon to come, can be found on the Shelby Farms Park webpage. A major aspect of the Heart of the Park Enhancement is the expansion of Patriot Lake. The ecological restoration will allow the lake to nearly double in size and become a bigger and healthier lake to enjoy.

In March, Go Ape is coming to Shelby Farms. The company that created the Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course in suburban St. Louis plans to open its ninth location in the U.S. and first in Tennessee. Located on six acres at Pine Lake adjacent to the Woodland Discovery Playground, the course will be part of a growing list of attractions the park already offers.

The course will feature six zip lines, two “Tarzan” swings, several rope ladders, bridges, and trapezes, as well as 42 obstacles perched 40 feet up in the forest canopy. Adults will pay a charge of about $57 for the course, which usually takes two to three hours to complete and includes safety briefings and instructions. Because Shelby Farms Conservancy is a private nonprofit managing the park for Shelby County, the revenue from the Go Ape course will help fund operations at the Park.

Since December 2011, the Overton Park Conservancy has been working to preserve the historical integrity of Overton Park while making it an exciting, fun, and safe community space for all Memphians. The park is home to the Memphis Zoo, Levitt Shell, Memphis College of Art, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and many other attractions, as well as the Old Forest State Natural Area.

The project plan for the park’s first five years includes the construction of Overton Bark, a 1.3-acre enclosed dog park, the renovation of the limestone trail through the Old Forest, improved bicycle and pedestrian access through the park and around the perimeter including a new entrance from East parkway, improvements to the park’s interior loops, as well as aesthetic touches and additional conveniences.

Green spaces in Memphis and amongst parks around the city have certainly improved in the past year, and with forward stamina, Memphis has a lot of exciting things to look forward to concerning park expansion in the future.

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