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VOL. 132 | NO. 80 | Friday, April 21, 2017

Bartlett Opens Greenway; Ghost River Natural Area Grows

By Bill Dries

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The city of Bartlett has 29 parks, and every one of them has a walking trail. But the path that formally opens to the public Friday, April 21, at a trailhead at Santa Valley Road and U.S. 64 is Bartlett’s first venture in a full-fledged greenway.

The first phase of the Fletcher Creek Greenway in Bartlett formally opens to the public Friday, April 21. “I’m so excited that we are finally getting started in Bartlett,” said parks and recreation director Shan Criswell. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The Fletcher Creek Greenway’s opening segment is just less than a mile in length and follows the creek to Yale Road and Brother Boulevard.

The greenway, which was already being used by the public as finishing touches were being put in place this week, opens a week ahead of the addition of 28.5 acres to the Ghost River State Natural Area near LaGrange, Tennessee, in Fayette County.

The Bartlett greenway eventually will stretch 4.4 miles along Fletcher Creek from U.S. 64 to Brunswick Road.

The project, which will cost a total of $4.2 million, is made possible with funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation for non-automobile projects. The city of Bartlett put up a match totaling 20 percent of the cost.

“We’ve got a lot of trails that go around each of our parks,” said Shan Criswell, parks and recreation director for the city of Bartlett. “They are more for jogging and parking. They are not really for biking because they are not wide enough. This is wide enough for bikers and joggers and walkers and hikers at the same time.”

There are trailheads at both ends of the segment with a few parking spaces and on-street parking. A second segment is now being planned to take the greenway east of the Birdsong Estates subdivision to connect with Madison Arthur Byrd Park.

“It’s a beautiful little trail into the woods. It crosses the creek in two places. We have real nice bridges that are over the creek. It’s a way to enjoy nature,” Criswell said. “I’m so excited that we are finally getting started in Bartlett.”

The city is already thinking about possible connections beyond the first and second phases, including connections to other greenways and trails outside Bartlett.

“We don’t own the right of way on every single section to connect to the other greenways, and we would have to get permission from each of those sections,” she said. “There are a couple of places where it is kind of hard to get across. We are still working through those issues. … If we could, that would be wonderful.”

Meanwhile, the Wolf River Conservancy and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will mark the growth of the Ghost River State Natural Area Wednesday, April 26, with a ceremony at the Bateman Road Bridge near LaGrange to dedicate the addition of the 28.5-acre Elder Tract.

The land was acquired for the public with help from the conservancy, TDEC, the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund and Ring Container Technologies.

The Ghost River is an unchannelized section of the Wolf River that runs through bottomland, including hardwood forests, swamps with cypress trees, and some open marshes. The natural area in Fayette County covers 14 miles of the river and takes in 2,220 acres.

The new addition won’t have a trailhead and will go more toward wetland restoration and conservation

“It’s part of a larger tract of land that is important,” said Keith Cole, executive director of the Wolf River Conservancy. “Without it, it could be open to development which could affect the view in the natural area. We’re not against development. But this is a critical area.”

And Cole said the proximity to LaGrange will offer those exploring the town’s antebellum history something new, while visitors coming to the river will also be able to check out LaGrange’s historical homes.

“If you want to start an argument in LaGrange, just say Memphis has the best water,” Cole quipped.

Fayette County Mayor Rhea “Skip” Taylor said the new acreage is part of a larger plan that has been underway for years.

“This is one piece of the puzzle that they’ve been assembling for a number of years,” he said. “That whole area of the Wolf River from one side of the county to the other is one of our treasures. It preserves it for posterity and also makes it available for posterity.”

The natural area is part of a plan by Fayette County and its cities and towns to improve the quality of life while also building a base for tourism.

“We’re working on the tourism aspects, trying to get some of the low-hanging fruit – folks who are in Shelby County or different areas who are coming through and want some place to stop,” Taylor said. “When they come out here, they’ll spend a little money in some grocery stores with tax dollars left here. That always helps the local economy.”

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