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VOL. 129 | NO. 235 | Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Greenline Part of Larger Changes to Shelby Farms

By Bill Dries

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The visitors center at Shelby Farms Park is about to come down, the latest sign of the transformation of the park.

The center, which will return in a larger version at another location, sits on the other side of the barrier that closes what was once the main gate into the park on Farm Road. And just beyond the barrier spreading to the west there is the excavation for the $25 million expansion of Patriot Lake.

Meanwhile, the paperwork for the extension of the Shelby Farms Greenline continues, with an anticipated April groundbreaking on the $4.8 million move to the east and across Germantown Parkway to the old Cordova train station.

Most of the money for the construction of the latest leg of the greenline – 75 percent – is federal grant money with another $550,000 from private donors.

Last week outside the park’s rangers station on Mullins Station Road where the greenline’s eastern end is now, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy leaders and city and county government officials marked the agreement between county government and CSX Transportation Inc. railroad for the sale of the 4.1-mile section of the railroad right of way.

Expansion of the Shelby Farms Greenline eastward into Cordova across Germantown Parkway is anticipated to have an April groundbreaking. The $4.8 million project is just the latest change in the larger transformation of Shelby Farms. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

In some places, the extension to come is still a rail bed without rails or wooden ties. In others, it is a slender ribbon through the brush that has grown up since the last trains came through.

County Public Works Director Tom Needham said the deal should close by Dec. 19. It’s a $2.5 million sale the Shelby County Commission will consider at its Monday, Dec. 8, meeting.

The bulk of the funding to purchase the 4.1-mile-long rail corridor, $1.8 million, is federal funding that passes through the state, with another $312,500 coming from private donors and $312,500 coming from county capital funding.

“Not an easy task, negotiating with a monopoly – even one as forward thinking as CSX,” said Tom Grimes, chairman of the conservancy board.

The greenline is Shelby County government property that is managed and maintained by the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.

County government bought the initial seven miles of CSX right of way in 2009 with $4.7 million in private contributions raised through the conservancy and Memphis Community Connector Inc., the group that negotiated with CSX for the first leg.

Needham described the railroad as a “great partner.”

“Interesting worlds. They have a profit organization. We have federal regulations we’ve got to deal with,” he added. “There was wording we came up with that allowed us to meet both of our objectives. They were real good with us.”

The County Commission’s vote next week is the first on a park project since the new commission was elected in August.

The former commission’s last votes on park funding came after lots of questions and concerns about programs that would ensure inner-city citizens who rely on public transportation would have access to the park and the greenline.

The conservancy has been working with the Memphis Area Transit Authority on bus service to the park.

Conservancy Executive Director Laura Morris said the greenline, whose current western terminus is at Tillman Street in Binghampton, is another way of bringing different parts of the city and county together.

“For Shelby Farms to be relevant, to matter, it has to matter to everybody and that means making the connection,” she said.

Grimes echoed that.

“Our vision is ambitious. … Shelby Farms Greenline is essential for this part of the vision,” he said. “It ties many diverse neighborhoods in Memphis together and stitches them into this park, which will be a great switching center.”

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