When hundreds of Memphians gather for a public meeting, they're usually angry about something. But last Thursday, nearly a thousand local citizens packed Hardin Hall at the Memphis Botanic Garden to advance a greener, more bike- and pedestrian-friendly Memphis.
The main speaker at the Greening Greater Memphis meeting, Shelby Farms park consultant Alex Garvin, talked about the benefits of planned parks and interconnected greenway trails. "Based on what I see tonight, you don't need any help. You are going to transform the city of Memphis," said Garvin, assessing the crowd of ordinary citizens and various elected officials.
The meeting, arranged by members of the Shelby Farms Park Alliance, the Wolf River Conservancy, and the Greater Memphis Greenline, was an attempt to combine the supporters of three individual "green" projects in the hope that strength in numbers will lead to change.
"We're really just connecting the dots between all the green strategies in Memphis and starting a real movement," said Laura Adams, executive director of Shelby Farms Park Alliance. "We have the bones to have one of the best systems in the country of interconnected parks and greenways."
The Wolf River Greenway, a 36-mile path along the Wolf River, would allow walkers and bikers to go from the Mississippi riverfront to Collierville-Arlington Road without ever crossing a street. The $23 million project would take 10 to 15 years but is only expected to cost about $1 million a year to taxpayers.
The Greater Memphis Greenline project would convert the 13 miles of abandoned CSX railway leading from Midtown to Cordova into walking and biking trails. The greenline would border the edge of Shelby Farms Park and tie into plans to transform the 4,500-acre area into a state-of-the-art public space. The county has hired the New York-based Garvin, a Yale urban-planning professor who helped transform Atlanta's parks system, to develop an overall vision for the park.
Thursday night, Garvin suggested adding a place to swim in Shelby Farms and better bike access into the park.
"Twice when my colleagues and I visited the park," said Garvin, "we've seen ambulances taking away bike riders who'd been hit by cars."