From tires to trails: New 2.5 mile multi-use trail repurposes dumped tires at Fuller State Park

What’s happening: Local officials celebrated the completion of a 2.5 mile-long hard-surface walking and biking trail at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis last week. And while improved park amenities are always welcome, this particular trail is especially notable for its composition as much as it is for its intended use. The new trail at Fuller State Park is made from illegally dumped tires collected from areas in and around the park. And at more than 2.5 miles long, the trail is now considered to be one of the longest rubber-bearing trails in the country.

From tires to trails: More than 24,000 dumped tires were collected by workers and volunteers over the course of the project, which began in 2019. One cleanup event saw 450 registered volunteers collect approximately 10,000 tires in one day alone. The tires were then recycled into rubber crumbs by Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol before eventually making their way back to Fuller State Park to find new life as the multi-use trail.

Why it’s important: “This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material then converting it into positive use,” says David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC. “It’s exactly the kind of responsible environmental activity Tennesseans can be proud of, where an area can be cleaned up then have people enjoy the benefits in a new way.”

How it happened: The tires-to-trails project was a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), TDOT, the City of Memphis, Shelby County, and Memphis City Beautiful. It was funded through a Tire Environmental Act Program grant ($250,000 from TDEC’s Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices); a special litter grant ($200,000 from TDOT); and a Federal Highway-Recreational Trails Program grant ($280,000 from TDEC’s Division of Recreation Resources).

What they’re saying: “We’re pleased to see discarded tires recycled to improve T.O. Fuller State Park,” says Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “The new trail is a great example of collaboration with our federal, state and city partners to invest in our shared environment and a treasured community asset.”
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