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VOL. 123 | NO. 47 | Friday, March 7, 2008

Shelby Farms' Potential Master Plans Unveiled Thurs.

By Bill Dries

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TAKE YOUR PICK: Three master plans for the future development of Shelby Farms Park were unveiled Thursday at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. The public will help the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy pick one of the planners next month. -- Photo By Bill Dries

The public got its first look Thursday at three proposed plans for Shelby Farms Park.

The designs by Tom Leader Studio, Hargreaves Associates and Field Operations offer very different ideas for a master plan to come.

The Shelby Farms Conservancy, with input from the public via questionnaires and a Web site, will pick one of the planners in April to come up with and develop a master plan that incorporates elements the public prefers.

"The next major step in the process is that the conservancy will select a final designer," said conservancy board chairman Calvin Anderson. "That designer will then return to the drawing board to produce a final design proposal. And most importantly, they will do that only after receiving a full month of input from the citizens of Shelby County."

Here is a synopsis of the three plans:

Field Operations: A vastly expanded Patriot Lake that is a mile and a half long with a rowing course is the centerpiece for a park that would include 10 gateways, a Shelby Farms Charter School, a 99-acre "Art Mound" for public art on what is the old landfill site and 100 acres of orchards.

Tom Leader Studio: A large Shelby Farms reservoir with a wave generator and a beach is the centerpiece for a plan that includes a Hall of Flowers Bridge over Walnut Grove Road. The plan would convert some lakes to wetlands. The key feature is an emphasis on the "green industry," including growing organic crops, producing solar energy with panels on the old landfill site and an ampitheater for the performing arts, as well as a recording studio.

Hargreaves Associates: The plan separates what it calls "Shelby Lakes Park" into four parks with six houses or centers for activities in those different regions of Shelby Farms. It would feed the Wolf River directly into the system of envisioned lakes and open it for kayaking and other water activities. There would be sporting activities, farming, a nature preserve and a neighborhood park area for picnics and other gatherings.

You can view the plans in more detail and add your input at www.shelbyfarmspark.org.

The plans also can be seen and response forms filled out at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Ave.; Shelby Farms Park Visitor Center, 500 North Pine Lake Drive, off Farm Road; and the Cossitt Library, 33 S. Front St.

"It is the culmination of more than 30 years of hard work and ... often testy debate about what to do with the 4,500 acres in the middle of Shelby County," Anderson told a group of elected leaders, park activists and others gathered Thursday morning at the Central Library.

"Shelby Farms is not a place. It's a statement of values," said Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr., who took the lead in establishing the conservancy to manage the land with the cooperation of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.

The parkland is in Memphis. Wharton teased Herenton, who was also present, for saying he's "not into bugs and things." Herenton said the park has at times been a "hot potato" politically. But he added that he hopes the master plan will be a part of the "greening of Memphis."

Shelby County Board of Commissioners member Mike Carpenter, who chairs the commission committee overseeing the process, talked of "resistance" to past parkland plans when some wanted to build homes or otherwise develop the land.

"Some will say and have said Shelby Farms is great. But it's not all that. It's just a park," Carpenter said. "'I'm OK with that. But the design we're about to see ... will ensure that it's just a park for urban and suburban families to fellowship together - where diversity flourishes - where lovers of nature and the outdoors can forget they are in the center of the most populous county in Tennessee."

All three planners expect elements of all three plans to show up in whatever master plan is devised.

"I think we'll go for parts of it," said James Corner, director of Field Operations. "But I think we have a very responsible plan in terms of being doable. It's a smart plan in the way it can be staged."

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