A stretch of the Wolf River Greenway formally opened on Saturday, Octover 21 on the north end of Mud Island, transforming a former illegal dumping ground into a park-like setting.
“It’s a dramatic difference. This entire area was all overgrown. We took out tons of tires and trash. You name it we took it out of here,” said Keith Cole, executive director of the Wolf River Conservancy.
The new greenspace has a working name of Confluence Park. It’s the point where the Wolf River meets the Mississippi River.
“The Wolf River begins about 100 miles east way down in Mississippi. It comes across two states, four counties, 11 communities in its winding path to get through here to finally arrive at the confluence of the Wolf River and the Mississippi River,” said Jimmy Ogle, Shelby County historian.
Leaders of the Wolf River Conservancy handed out shoestrings of all colors ahead of the dedication ceremony of the 115-acre site with a 1.2 mile trail loop.
“Those shoestrings symbolize the connections we are making as we build out the greenway,” said Cole. “Please do not think of this as a 12-foot wide paved hiking and biking path. Think about it as being a connection in our community.”
The festivities included a park fair with speeches, a walking tour and food trucks.
The trail features a boardwalk, picnic tables, bike racks and a bike repair station. The trail loop connects to Second Street.
“We have 7,000 residents over here at Harbor Town that have a great new amenity. This is for everybody who lives in the city of Memphis,” said Cole.
Overall, the $50 million Wolf River Greenway project features 26 miles of trailheads and paths through natural areas that follow the Wolf River. The money came from public and private donations.
Opening day for Confluence Park started with yoga in the park and included a photo booth, face painting, chalk art and food trucks.Previously, only 2.7 miles of the Greenway between Walnut Grove and Germantown was open.
“We’ve now successfully opened another segment of the Greenway. This is the first one that’s been opened since September 2012. We’ve got momentum and are on track to complete the entire project by 2020,” said Cole.
Segments in Kennedy Park and Epping Way in Raleigh are slated for completion by the end of the year. Construction began on another section stretching from Walnut Grove northwest to a Tennessee Valley Authority right-of-way. The eight-mile stretch is scheduled to be completed next summer.
RiverLine markings and other features will be added next month to mark the trail from Confluence Park south to the Big River Crossing.
“Twenty-six miles using under-utilized land and connecting neighborhoods – going from Cordova into East Memphis, Raleigh, Frayser, North Memphis, Downtown – I think that’s remarkable and it’s going to tie us all together. What a great asset and amenity we have in the greenway,” Mayor Strickland said.
While there are many benefits to the greenway – recreation, improved health and transportation alternatives – one stands out.
“Most importantly, this project will create connections of people and communities. In creating those connections, we create economic opportunity,” said Cole.