Conservancy Wants Guarantees on Shelby Farms Parkway

By Bill Dries

The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy wants to see more work toward agreements about a proposed Shelby Farms parkway, including no big-rig truck traffic, that are its conditions for agreeing to the long-discussed road.

“We want to see to the greatest extent possible everything we’ve asked for,” said Laura Adams, executive director of the conservancy, after a Tuesday, Sept. 24, public hearing and update at Agricenter by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “We’re satisfied that we have reached agreements that could add benefits to the park and that we would be protecting the environmental and recreational assets of the park if we could establish that all of those agreements would be met.”

The 10 points the conservancy board wants guarantees on are:

- A parkway design that makes it easy for visitors to get to and around the park.

- No widening of Walnut Grove Road and reduced speed limits on the road as well as no extension of Sycamore View Road to intersect with the parkway.

- Prioritizing bike, equestrian and pedestrian access as well as connections to the Wolf River Greenway and the Shelby Farms Greenline.

- Enhancing bike and pedestrian access to and from the neighborhoods around Shelby Farms Park.

- Enhancing the connections of pedestrian and vehicles between all areas of the park.

- No harm to the floodplain or aquifer in the park.

- A road design that complements the vision of the park.

- Underground utilities and no road lighting for the parkway.

- An easy to understand three-dimensional model of the proposed parkway that was on display at Tuesday’s meeting.

- No tractor trailer rigs on the parkway.

The state, city and county departments involved in the project, which is an extension of Kirby Parkway from the southwest and an extension of Whitten Road from the north, want the conservancy to agree that the modified parkway plan is a “de minimis” plan that minimizes harm to the park enough to allow it to go forward.

At this point, the conservancy has not agreed.

“They do not and that’s a board decision that would go back to our full board of directors,” Adams said.

The Sycamore View extension has been removed from the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s list of projects.

Banning tractor trailers from the parkway would require an act of Congress, something city and county leaders have pledged to work toward.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation officials at Tuesday’s hearing unveiled options for the parkway’s impact on two existing connector trails as well as the coming extension of the Shelby Farms Greenline.

For the two connectors, one of which is where those using the Wolf River Trail cross Walnut Grove at Farm Road, the options are underpasses that would accommodate pedestrians and bicycles as well as horses.

The greenline extension running parallel to Mullins Station Road and how the parkway interacts with it is still an open question.

“We’re going to finish Greenline east way before they start work on the parkway and the parkway is going to have to react to the Greenline,” Adams said. “The city and county have both expressed great commitment and interest in finding funding for a grade separated interchange so that the Greenline would go over the new parkway. They are looking at that.”

The project which began as a straight line road extension connecting Kirby Parkway to Whitten Road in the mid 1980s remains in the preliminary design stage with no start date contemplated for any kind of construction. Tuesday’s public hearing and update was a follow up to the last state hearing on the matter in 2007.