Local ULI Leads Green Charge

By Eric Smith

NEXIS: Mud Island River Park’s Harbor Landing is the site for Wednesday’s “Greenways and Byways: A Regional Forum for Success,” a conference centered on creating and promoting local, regional and national greenways and how they can be connected. – PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSISSIPPI RIVER CORRIDOR – TENNESSEE

Memphis might lag behind other cities when it comes to developing and connecting green spaces, but a collaboration of organizations is working to improve this community’s “greenprint,” or its collection of parks, trails and other natural areas, and then link them to regional and national green spaces.

The Mid-South chapter of the Urban Land Institute is leading the charge by hosting “Greenways and Byways: A Regional Forum for Success” Wednesday at Mud Island River Park’s Harbor Landing. The forum is open to the public, lasts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $15.

The event was designed to begin public dialogue about how local greenways and byways should be connected with regional ones, and how both can be linked to those on a national scale.

Diana Threadgill is executive director of the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee, one of the event’s sponsors. In addition to speaking at the event, her organization will hold a ribbon cutting for four new National Scenic Byways that are part of the Great River Road, a historic byway that parallels the Mississippi River from its source to its mouth.

Threadgill said the purpose of the forum is to educate citizens about national scenic byways and how they can connect to greenway initiatives on a local and regional basis, much like the projects happening in Memphis with the Wolf River Greenway to the CSX greenline.

“It’s about green living. It’s about healthy lifestyles and exercise, and that sort of thing,” Threadgill said. “It’s about being more conscious about your environment.”

The details

The forum will include a slate of local, regional and national speakers. National Scenic Byways consultants David Dahlquist and Dennis Adams will give an introduction to what those byways are and how they can be linked to regional byways.

Representatives from Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana will discuss the development of regional scenic byways.

NATURAL APPRECIATION: Greenways provide numerous benefits to communities, a point the Mid-South chapter of the Urban Land Institute hopes to get across when it hosts “Greenways and Byways: A Regional Forum for Success,” Wednesday at the Mud Island River Park’s Harbor Landing. – PHOTO COURTESY OF MISSISSIPPI RIVER CORRIDOR – TENNESSEE

State Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who serves as the senate’s majority leader, will deliver the keynote address. He will be followed by Tom Woiwode, director of the Greenways Initiative for the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, talking about greenways in that region.

Frank Ricks, principal at Looney Ricks Kiss Architects Inc. and immediate-past chair of the local ULI chapter, will give attendees an update on the regional greenprint.

Other speakers include Jennifer Spence and Pam Monjar discussing the Tennessee trails and byways program, David Yocca and Dr. Gerould Wilhelm discussing their role with Conservation Design Forum-Chicago; and Kim Chapman and Mark O’Leary discussing their role with Applied Ecological Services-Wisconsin.

Lauren Taylor, program officer for greening initiatives at the Hyde Family Foundations, an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of Memphians through a variety of outlets, will deliver the forum’s closing remarks.

Connecting communities

Taylor said one of the Hyde Family Foundations’ main goals is to enhance green spaces in the city and beyond, something it helped accomplish by committing $24 million to environmental projects.

“Part of our foundations’ vision for Memphis is this interconnected system of parks and greenways supported by trails and bike lanes,” Taylor said. “We chose that as a focus area because we know that a strong green space and greenway system is a major competitive advantage for a city.”

Taylor said green spaces provide numerous benefits for communities, from making citizens healthier to promoting a cleaner environment to attracting young professionals who look for places to relax when they consider a city.

Although Hyde Family Foundations is focused on Memphis and Shelby County, Taylor said the organization understands how the local areas fit into a bigger picture because greenways don’t stop at county or state lines.

That’s why it’s important for stakeholders from connecting states and communities to join forces for the creation and preservation of green spaces, whether that means river trails or walking paths.

“It’s mutually beneficial for us to coordinate our efforts for lots of different reasons,” Taylor said. “What ULI has initiated, and this upcoming forum supports some of the projects that we’re working on in Memphis and Shelby County, but it’s charting a course for the future prioritization of other green space areas. We have a ways to go both inside Memphis and Shelby County, and outside. This is building on some of the exciting things that are already happening.”

Forum organizations hope the event will engage citizens in the planning of green spaces for their community.

“If this thing picks up momentum like we hope it will,” Taylor said, “I think we’ll see some real tangible outcomes for Memphis and Shelby County over the next few years.”