While 2020 has seen lots of restrictions on activities, there are plenty of memories to be made with Memphis’ wonderful outdoor offerings. In a wild understatement, this year has been messed up for a variety of reasons. Contagion and quarantine have put limits on recreational options, so DCA’s Doug Carpenter was inspired to create a platform to remind Memphians that there are still plenty of ways to enjoy themselves in Bluff City.
Yesterday, DCA launched Discovering Memphis Naturally, a web resource designed to focus on various outdoor amenities and experiences around Memphis. The site is the product of a collaborative effort between DCA and city organizations like Memphis Tourism, the Downtown Memphis Commission, and the City of Memphis’ Park Division.
“In a broad sense, we wanted to recognize the growth of our outdoor assets,” says Carpenter. “That includes the maturation of places like the Green Line, Shelby Farms Park, Big River Crossing. When we looked at all of these things, we saw that there wasn’t a collective voice representing all of these outside assets. So our intention is to bring these things together as a comprehensive way for all the entities that thrive as a result of our citizens’ participation to work together.”
The idea took hold about a year ago, when Carol Coletta, president and CEO of the Memphis River Parks Partnership, called numerous outdoor-focused organizations together to discuss how Memphis could garner more recognition for natural spaces. While everyone was on board, there wasn’t any concerted effort at the time to create a strategy. When COVID-19 hit, it put a big strain on many of these organizations from a business perspective, but it also seemed like Memphians had a greater need for physical and mental health excursions. When Memphis Travel shared research supporting that claim, as well as statistics indicating that people out-of-state were more willing to take long road trips to the Bluff City, Carpenter set about gathering funds.
“Memphis Travel’s research showed us that people preferred to drive over flying, and were willing to go up to 600 miles away for new distanced outdoor activities,” explains Carpenter. “Since traditional tourism isn’t as robust right now, we can build this collective voice, and hopefully industry will follow. We’ve seen more bike tours, bike sales are up, and this could be a new chapter in Memphis’ recruiting and retention efforts.”
Discovering Memphis Naturally will have a digital marketing presence within that 600 mile radius, stretching as far as Dallas or Little Rock. While the website currently contains plenty of great options, Carpenter hopes that it will continue to grow through the addition of less-well-known offerings.
The website is divided into five distinct categories: Bike It, Paddle It, Climb It, Park It, and View It. Each splits off into a detailed breakdown of each area that offers comparable activities, along with links for further learning. While the obvious suspects are there (bike trails, parks), the fifth section, View It, casts an eye on some of Memphis’ unique attractions, like a series of murals, or the “I am a Man” sculpture. “We want this to put a broad spotlight on Memphis’ culture,” says Carpenter. “For travel, not everyone is a mountain biker. Some people would rather take a tour of the murals we have in town, and I think you’ll start to see more programming focused on activities like that soon. We want people to come here and appreciate every bit of the culture: our murals, our sunsets, our art, our bridge lights, our trails, all the things that make us a really interesting place.”
Going forward, Discover Memphis Naturally aims to be a unified voice for all the organizations that partner under its umbrella, providing more coverage, giveaways, and other promotional ideas to get people out and about. “It’s been 24 hours since we launched,” says Carpenter, “but we’ve got a lot of exciting things to share in the coming days and months.”
But enough staring at your screen; time to head outside.