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VOL. 133 | NO. 163 | Friday, August 17, 2018

Riverline to Make ‘Big Jump’ South of Crump

By Bill Dries

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The connected nearly 5-mile trail along the city’s riverfront is about to add an additional two miles with the Riverline extending south of Big River Crossing, above, to MLK-Riverside Park. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

The Riverline bike and pedestrian trail along the Mississippi River’s edge will be jumping to Crump Boulevard into South Memphis.

And that’s what a Big Jump launch event Aug. 23 will mark – planning of the southernmost segment of the Riverline from Big River Crossing to Martin Luther King/Riverside Park.

The Riverline currently covers 4.75 miles from Concourse Park, the Wolf River Greenway trailhead on the north end of Mud Island, to Big River Crossing, the pedestrian and bicycle boardwalk on the northern side of the Harahan Bridge across the Mississippi River.

The Big Jump is also a national effort by the group PeopleForBikes to double or triple bicycle ridership in specific neighborhoods in 10 cities over the three years.

Memphis is one of the cities selected by the nonprofit foundation based in Boulder, Colorado, whose local director is Kyle Wagenschutz, the former city pedestrian and bicycle director. And the city chose the Riverside neighborhood of South Memphis and the larger surrounding South Memphis area.

Each of the 10 cities get the equivalent of $200,000 in technical assistance for each of the three years of Big Jump from the organization and the cities put up $50,000 in matching local funding – private or public.

“There really was the matter of fitting the pieces of the puzzle together – working with what we already had,” said Nicholas Oyler, the city’s current bicycle and pedestrian manager.

“So, a portion of this route was already funded through a federal grant. The protected bike lanes on Florida Street – that’s actually been in the works for a number of years now,” he said. “That’s already about to happen. … I think we are looking at five different funding sources to do this two to three-mile route.”

The five funding sources including federal funding, city capital funding, city engineering funding, a state health department grant and private funding being secured by the Memphis River Parks Partnership total more than $500,000.

Oyler’s intent is to set out the route from Big River Crossing to MLK-Riverside Park all at once.

“I’m trying to time it so it all gets done around the same time,” he said. I don’t want one piece to open up and be an island for three months. Hopefully late spring 2019 it will all start coming together.”

Florida Street would get protected bike and pedestrian lanes as the main connection into south Memphis with South Parkway and Riverside Boulevard as connectors along the way to MLK/Riverside.

Still to be determined is how the route will connect with the busy Jack Carley Causeway intersection that is a major interchange for truck traffic into and out of Presidents Island.

Riverside Boulevard intersects with the causeway and West McLemore as bikers go south out of Chickasaw Heritage Park in the direction of MLK-Riverside Park.

“There’s this kind of complicated intersection of Jack Carley Causeway and Riverside Boulevard and West McLemore all coming together in this awkward convergence,” Oyler said. “So it’s the most critical portion to make sure we get it right – to make sure it’s safe for people on bikes and people who are jogging along the trail. We’ll be working with some community partners in the area.”

The meeting Aug. 23 at Advance Memphis Warehouse, 575 Suzette St., at 5:30 p.m. will be to talk about the southern end of the Riverline and also to announce community projects along the segment that are also funded as part of The Big Jump initiative.

The Riverline, from Confluence Park to Big River Crossing, gets a formal opening in early November that will follow the Oct. 3 opening of the renovated Mississippi River Park by the MRPP.

A repurposing and rejuvenation of MLK-Riverside Park is a part of the city’s riverfront concept plan announced more than a year ago.

Oyler said Riverline access to the park should make Memphians more aware of the park.

“It’s larger than Overton Park by acreage. It also has an old growth forest. The terrain is much more rolling than overton park. … and yet for many Memphians it is unknown,” he said. ”And part of that is because it is so disconnected from the surrounding community. Interstate 55 was built through in the 1960s and just sliced it off from the rest of the city essentially. So part of this project is re-establishing historic connections and allowing the neighborhoods around the park to again have other access to it. And once we have a defined route with signage to guide people there I would expect more people to be going there --- rediscovering this park.”

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