Greenline to Keep Growing in 2013

By Bill Dries

In the coming year, the Shelby Farms Greenline could move a bit farther west from Tillman Street, where it now ends, to the Poplar Avenue viaduct with a goal of linking up with the Broad Avenue Arts District.

A bicyclist rides the Shelby Farms Greenline south of Sam Cooper Boulevard between White Station and Mendenhall roads. The popular trail will soon be extended in both directions.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The two-way bike lanes to come on Broad separated from auto traffic by a barrier is the final link in connecting Overton Park and Shelby Farms Park for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy Executive Director Laura Adams said design work is under way on getting the Greenline at least to the viaduct, although bicyclists are already able to go from Tillman to Broad.

Meanwhile, the conservancy, which manages and maintains the Greenline into Shelby Farms Park is also working on pushing the Greenline farther east across Germantown Parkway in the coming year.

“It’s entirely realistic that the Greenline will go all the way to the old Cordova train depot within the next 18 months,” Adams said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.”

The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen at The Daily News Online,

Like Shelby Farms Park, Overton Park has a conservancy that manages and maintains the park for local government. And Overton Park Conservancy executive director Tina Sullivan said it is modeled on what the conservancy has done for Shelby Farms Park.

“When you saw the success of Shelby Farms Park, the increase in the number of visitors, the pent-up demand that seemed to be expressed with the opening of the Greenline – the timing seemed right for the Overton Park Conservancy to be formed and to have its own entity.”

The two parks have different histories and different uses that will likely change as they are linked by different Greenline routes.

“It’s really an abandoned farm,” Adams said of Shelby Farms. “There are lots of improvements. There’s not a single natural lake on the old property. People like to think that Shelby Farms is natural but it’s not. It was a forest that was chopped down for farm land that became the penal farm that was abandoned. And now it’s a park.”

Overton Park includes the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Levitt Shell and the Memphis Zoo, all of which are run separately from the conservancy.

“When you come to Overton Park, you can choose to walk in the deep woods – an ancient forest – in the middle of the city or you can choose to go to a museum or you can choose to go to a free concert at the Levitt Shell,” Sullivan said.

“Our long-term vision is that we’re a park not only for Midtown Memphis and the greater Memphis region, but eventually we become our own destination park where we market ourselves to people far outside of Memphis as a place to come to visit.”

In the year ahead, Sullivan and the conservancy are working on an eastern entrance to the park and park trails where Sam Cooper Parkway meets East Parkway. It’s an area already sought out on weekends for its historic picnic pavilion by those who come specifically to the park for events at the pavilion.

“It opens up that part of the park to that neighborhood just east of Overton Park,” Sullivan said of the improvements to come that will “improve those access points for pedestrians and cyclists so that Overton Park becomes not only a destination but a stopover as you go to other parts of the city on your bike.”

The Greenline and its connections, grouped as the Greater Memphis Greenline, have also had their own economic impact.

Nancy Ream, president of the Greater Memphis Greenline, said her organization has counted as many as 400 people an hour using some parts of the Greenline.

“All along the way, people are saying, ‘Where can we go for this?’” she said. “There is definitely more room for all of that to happen. … I think it’s a fabulous thing for economic development. Once we get 50 miles of all these connections, that’s a good economic development thing. If you get 50 miles, people come from far away … to stay here for a couple of nights and use all of these Greenlines.”

The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy set some baselines for economic development as well as measuring crime within a certain radius of the Greenline before it was opened.

The conservancy is about to update that study to gauge the impact in the first year and a half

“The private market reaction to the Greenline has already been strong with restaurants and bike shops and bike rentals and things like that,” Adams said. “All the research we had done and the Greater Memphis Greenline had done showed that with these kinds of amenities that crime goes down and economic activity and property values go up.”