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VOL. 131 | NO. 199 | Wednesday, October 05, 2016

A Greener Memphis Requires More Connectivity

By Don Wade

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It sounds simple enough, the idea that, as Wolf River Conservancy executive director Keith Cole puts it, “One of the basic premises of connectivity is you never want to build a bridge to nowhere.”

Throughout Memphis, citizens are finding more places and more ways to enjoy green spaces. Issues related to this renaissance will be discussed Oct. 11 at the Memphis Newsmakers Seminar at the Brooks Museum.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Of course, it’s not that simple. Any big-scale change takes time. Metro Memphis is in the midst of a green renaissance. And none of the projects is happening in isolation.

“Public space revitalization and connectivity are hot-button issues for most cities,” said Jen Andrews, director of Shelby Park Conservancy, and who oversaw the massive Heart of the Park project.

Andrews and Cole are two of the presenters at the Tuesday, Oct. 11, Memphis Newsmakers Seminar: The Transformation of Parks & Greenways. The event, hosted by The Daily News Publishing Co., will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Brooks Museum with a wine and cheese reception to follow. To register, contact leah@memphisdailynews.com.

Joining Cole and Andrews as presenters are Doug Carpenter, principal of DCA and Explore Bike Share organizer; Tina Sullivan, executive director of the Overton Park Conservancy; and John Zeanah, deputy director of the Memphis & Shelby County Division of Planning and Development. The event will include a panel discussion moderated by Eric Barnes, publisher and CEO of The Daily News, and an interactive Q & A session with the audience.

In keeping with the connectivity theme, Carpenter said: “Overton Park, Broad Avenue, Crosstown, Uptown, Central Station, Chisca, Big River Crossing, South Junction, any of those that complement Soulsville, Cooper-Young, Overton Square … we, as a city, have done a remarkable job in creating places – entities that in and of themselves are remarkable efforts.

“I see Bike Share as a way to connect those entities together,” Carpenter said. “One of my contentions is that as a city we’re a lot closer than we think. Geographically, I know it’s true. It’s two miles from Sun to Stax. It’s 1.8 from the FedExForum to Stax. It’s two miles from the medical center to Crosstown. We’re so geographically close to one another and we just don’t think of it that way because we spend our time in the automobile.”

Which made starting this transformation challenging.

“Our city is sprawling; we didn’t have a lot density,” Andrews said. “Shelby Farms Park is in the center of the population density, but is not in the center of the city. It’s got huge potential to connect people as a destination. It’s just so difficult to get anywhere in Memphis if you don’t have a car.”

Explore Bike Share, which Carpenter hopes to be wheels on the ground by spring, aims to change that with some 600 bikes placed at 60 stations within the Interstate 40 loop, but eventually perhaps expanding beyond that.

The Wolf River Greenway, Cole says, will be about 25 miles long and is on pace to be completed in 2019 or 2020.

“We help each other, is the way I look at it,” Cole said of the various projects.

Sullivan agreed.

“I really enjoy being part of the Greenprint effort,” she said. “As organizations, we’re all mutually supportive of each other’s business but also the collective plan – from Shelby Farms Park to the Fourth Bluff.

“This generation is realizing what tremendous assets we have in our green spaces and there’s more focus on improving and protecting them.”

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