Wolf River Conservancy's greenway efforts garner state recognition

Based on its work on the Wolf River Greenway Trail and protection of lands related to the Memphis aquifer and clean water supply, the Wolf River Conservancy recently garnered state recognition.

The Memphis-based nonprofit took home the award for Conservation Organization of the Year at the Tennessee Wildlife Federation's 53rd annual Conservation Achievement Awards, held in Nashville.

“We appreciate the fact that the Tennessee Wildlife Federation recognized the work that we do and the high standards we have,” said Keith Cole, Wolf River Conservancy executive director.

The Wolf River Conservancy focuses mostly on West Tennessee. To date, the WRC has protected more than 16,000 acres in the Wolf River watershed, equaling about $24 million invested by WRC board members.

“The lands primarily are protected for protecting our clean drinking water,” explained Cole. “The Wolf River Conservancy has been protecting the aquifer since 1985, and we do that protecting the recharge areas like the wetlands and floodplains [mostly in undeveloped Fayette County].”

The WRC is leading the buildout of the Wolf River Greenway Trail through the city of Memphis. Upon completion, the 12-foot-wide paved walking and biking trail will total 25 miles.

“In building the trail, we’re also conserving land, which protects our water,” said Cole.

Last fall, the greenway opened on the north end of Mud Island, converting an 80-acre piece of land that was formerly a dumping site into a park-like setting.

Two sections in Raleigh and Frayser are almost complete, and work is underway on a 1.3-mile section through East Memphis and Midtown.

Through the public/private partnership between the WRC, the City of Memphis, and Shelby County, each entity will handle certain portions of the $60 million project.

Once it is completed, an estimated 238,000 people (roughly 25 percent of the Memphis population) will have access the trail.

“There are a lot of great green initiatives going on in Memphis and Shelby County,” said Cole. “Whether it’s the Big River Crossing, the new Mississippi River parks partnership, our project, the Shelby Farms Park and the Greenline – we’re connecting all of those green initiatives together. The most important aspect of all of these projects is connecting them.”

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Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.