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VOL. 124 | NO. 234 | Monday, November 30, 2009

Mud Island’s Time Will Come Once Economic Fog Lifts

The Memphis News

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Everything you need to know about the worth of Mud Island can be found in how children react to the river park. They don’t care about attendance numbers or demographics or mission statements.

If they don’t see a lot of other people around, they’re likely to regard that as a good thing – more for them in the way of fun.

They tell friends of their journey to what is probably an unknown spot to them, adding a sense of mystery.

With some setting of realistic priorities and a lifting of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Mud Island can blossom in a way it was meant to when it was built nearly 30 ago.

To that end, we make the following suggestions:

  • A new northern gate for the park. With it there should be a link to the nearby Mississippi Greenbelt Park. But creating new fill to create more greenbelt is probably politically unrealistic given its considerable expense. A new north entrance for cars, people on foot and, yes, bicycles, doesn’t have to change the park’s western edge. Greenbelt park patrons can be relied on to make their own use without a path being available for every possible footstep they might want to take in the river park.
  • Better and more active use of the southern tip of the island. Start with the Gulf of Mexico. Keep the paddleboats and add some splash park features to address the irresistible lure of the water. Maybe even make part of the Gulf a swimming pool since going “all pool” presents some real problems. Without blocking the extraordinary view of the city’s skyline, add the Grand Carousel from the Mid-South Fairgrounds if that property’s renovation plan doesn’t add it to the Children’s Museum first. Get the Gulf restaurant up and running as something other than a snack bar, but not the ultimate formal dining experience that is probably the turf of the River Terrace restaurant. If there are to be water taxis across the harbor from Beale Street Landing, they should arrive on the lower parcel of greenspace that is the actual southern tip of Mud Island.
  • A concrete skate park with a bold, original and challenging design near the new northern gate and the current parking area. Done right, a skate park here could serve to entice visitors to regard the park as a place that is as active as it can be contemplative. The level of activity in a skate park seems a bit much for a southern tip that includes a water park feature and a carousel. It might also distract from a parcel of land that changes as the river does and offers the promise of a place to consider life as well as the river.
  • Adding some other features for bikes around the skate park could mark the north end as the terminus of a journey as well as a beginning for bikers who, for practical reasons, can’t go much farther into the park as it exists today.
  • There’s a collection of artifacts the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found several years ago related to Tom Lee’s 1925 rescue of 32 people on the river. They include the red corps flag that flew on the M.E. Norman, the boat that capsized on the river below Memphis. The river museum would be the best place for the flag and a detailed exhibit on the city’s most enduring river story.
  • Bring back the playground that was bulldozed in the early 1990s.
  • Give the Riverwalk a light sprucing up.
  • Adapt the superstructure that was once the shelter for the Memphis Belle. Turn it into a hanging gardens-type attraction with lots of landscaping and tables and chairs and few if any structural changes. Put what is a superior landscaping team to work on this question mark and watch it bloom. It would also serve as a buffer zone between the skate park and one end of the riverwalk, as well as the western side of the museum.

Start with these basic things and we predict other items such as restaurants will come online without having to repeat the ’90s debacle in which the attainment of a Hard Rock Café was built up as a civic milestone that would transform the city.

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289