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Branching Out

Future greenway plans focus on disadvantaged neighborhoods.



Land value near greenway trails typically increases by 10 to 30 percent, according to regional greenways coordinator Tara Wohlgemuth. And few could argue that impoverished areas in North and South Memphis could use a property-value boost.

That's part of the reason greenway development plans for the Greater Memphis Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway are now focusing on Soulsville, Chelsea Avenue, and the Hollywood community. Currently, most of the city's greenlines are located in affluent areas of East Memphis.

"It's in every way a conscious effort. We're trying to spread the benefits of active living into all parts of the community, and it's probably most important in the disadvantaged parts of our community, because they have so few amenities," said Syd Lerner, executive director of Greater Memphis Greenline.

Lerner announced the latest plans for a new greenway last week at a Livable Memphis "Pizza with Planners" meeting. The 2.3-mile segment will start at Latham and East Bodley in South Memphis and end at Trigg near Bellevue Park. It will take greenway users close to new bike lanes on South Parkway.

"It would be a good corridor for people to get into the Soulsville neighborhood," Lerner said.

The trail is still in the early planning stages, and right now Greater Memphis Greenline is trying to build community support.

The corridor appears to have once housed a rail line, but the rails are no longer there. About two-thirds of the property is owned by Shelby County government, which Lerner calls "a recipe for faster development," since Greater Memphis Greenline doesn't have to convince a rail line to sell for an affordable price.

Greater Memphis Greenline will be negotiating with Union Pacific, however, on another 2.4-mile greenline proposed for Chelsea Avenue in North Memphis. It will start at Edward and McLean near the Evergreen neighborhood and end at Washington Park. That project was launched last November.

"If everything falls into place, we're looking at 2014 or 2015 to cut the ribbon," Lerner said of the Chelsea greenline. "We still have the acquisition phase to complete, and we're going through the environmental assessment now."

The Wolf River Conservancy, which is currently constructing its next Wolf River Greenway segment from Shady Grove to Germantown, is also looking to North Memphis for its next project. Eventually, the Wolf River Greenway will run 21 miles from downtown to Collierville, but it's being constructed in segments that will not hook together right away.

The North Memphis segment that's currently in the design phase would run 1.3 miles from McLean to Hollywood along a Corps of Engineers levee. Unlike the current Wolf River Greenway path near Shelby Farms, this segment won't run alongside the Wolf River.

"The river is pretty far away from the neighborhoods, so the trail was pulled closer to the houses," said Bob Wenner, project coordinator for the Wolf River Conservancy. "You will not be able to see the river from the path."

The property along that path is owned by a half-dozen or so landowners who must be convinced to sell or allow a trail easement. Otherwise, the path may have to be re-routed. Wenner said there are 158 privately owned parcels along the remaining 18.5 miles of the greenway that must be acquired or allowed as easements.

But despite possible acquisition hurdles, Wenner said the conservancy has a goal of completing the entire 21-mile greenway by 2020. The McLean to Hollywood segment is scheduled for completion by 2014.

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