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VOL. 130 | NO. 150 | Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wolf River Greenway Targets Raleigh Riverbend

By Bill Dries

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At the northernmost bend of the Wolf River in Shelby County, the Wolf River Conservancy has plans for a boat ramp onto the Wolf and a nature center that together promise to change the surrounding area of Raleigh where the river turns.


The two areas total 360 acres – 260 acres that are the city’s Kennedy Park and another 100 acres on the other side of the river bought and assembled by the conservancy as Epping Way, a nature center.

“Kennedy is an underutilized park,” said Charles Flink of Alta Planning + Design, the Durham, N.C. consultant on the design of the Wolf River Greenway. “Epping is an assemblage that the conservancy has put together. They are two really spectacular pieces of land.

“We’re creating an activity center near the Raleigh neighborhoods, near the north Memphis neighborhoods that traditionally have been a little underserved in the area of parks and recreation.”

Flink was a guest on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.” The show, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video page, video.memphisdailynews.com.

Bob Wenner, coordinator of the 20-mile long greenway of which three miles is already built, said the conservancy has been working in Kennedy Park along with the city to prepare for the transformation.

So far that has involved pulling privet and clearing brush to open up some sightlines.

“Kennedy Park has got ballfields that really aren’t used that much,” Wenner said on the TV program. “There are soccer fields that are used pretty actively on the weekends. And then there’s not really much else going on in the park. In fact, there’s a boat ramp there if you want to paddle on the Wolf. But it’s really been behind a locked gate. We want to reactivate these assets there. We want to reposition that park.”

Epping Way has a lake and like Kennedy features access to the river for canoers and kayakers.

If the area seems an unlikely setting for a pedestrian and bicycle trail, Flink points out that the Shelby Farms Greenline had its share of skeptics and homeowners concerned about what a trail behind their property would mean.

“We get into these areas that have had historical underinvestment and what we find is pent-up demand,” he said. “People do like to bike and walk. There’s almost a greater need on the transportation side of the ledger. Folks can really rely on this for transportation.”

Wenner and Flink say they will address safety concerns with tested landscaping methods as well as camera surveillance and using the traffic on the greenway and in the neighborhoods to discourage crime.

Kennedy and Epping Way are among seven segments of the greenway under design currently with that design work to be completed by the end of 2015.

Construction begins next year simultaneously on those seven segments after a series of public townhall meetings in the fall to get input and adjust the plans accordingly.

“We are picking the low-hanging fruit,” Flink said. “We are going to build what we can and then over the period of the next three years we will tie them together.”

Flink is modeling the rapid work model on his experience in planning and designing the Razorback Regional Greenway in northwest Arkansas, a trail connecting six cities that was completed in five years

Also among the seven legs of the Wolf River Greenway under design is what is being called “Confluence Park.”

It’s a separate park on the northern tract of Mud Island where the Wolf River meets the Mississippi River. The tract of land runs from the Mississippi River to Second Street along the dam that was built in the 1960s to seal off the Memphis harbor between Mud Island and the city’s mainland which was the previous confluence point of the Wolf and the Mississippi.

“It’s this great vantage point to watch activity on the river,” Wenner said. “There’s all this open green space and nobody’s ever taken it and made it their own and called it something.”

Flink says Confluence Park is a northern riverfront anchor tied to the Big River Crossing, a bicycle and pedestrian boardwalk across the Mississippi River on the north side of the Harahan Bridge, that is already under construction.

The entire greenway, which is 16 phases including the seven under design currently, is a $40 million undertaking.

Foundations and other nonprofits have pledged $22 million of the amount. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is putting up $1.7 million. The city of Memphis has committed $1.5 million a year over five years for a total of $7.5 million. In-kind and individual donors have contributed another $600,000. That leave an $8.5 million gap the conservancy continues to raise even as it moves ahead with the segments.

The city funding does not include the $4 million the city contributed for the three existing miles of the greenway along Humphreys Boulevard.

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