Monday, March 23, 2009

Exclusive Article!

My editor at the Commercial Appeal did not run this column on the Healthy Memphis page of the Commercial Appeal because it contained too much "advocacy" for a Health and Fitness section. I want to publish it here for you today.

Daily papers are on the decline. Why not run stories that people want to read, stories about dedicated citizens committed to making Memphis into the very best city it can be?


Last Wednesday night (February 25), a crowd gathered into a meeting room at the Benjamin J. Hooks Public Library for a meeting sponsored by the local Sierra Club. Sandwiches were eaten, 2 liter cokes consumed and chocolate chip cookies devoured. But the main course for the evening was a presentation from Greater Memphis Greenline Executive Director Syd Lerner. Four years ago, a group of what Lerner described as “do-gooders” organized themselves into a 501 (c) 3 for the express purpose of turning the CSX rail line that runs through the heart of Memphis into a multi-use path. Walkers, runners, bicyclists, children in strollers and roller-bladers would be soaring along this abandoned corridor in a little less than two years, they believed. Lerner described the private group of donors prepared to purchase the right of way for the trail, The Memphis Connection Group, as the silent partners just off stage prepared to dole out the dough necessary to make this 13 mile abandoned rail corridor into a world class greenline. Four years, three radically different estimates and 7 million dollars later a handshake deal has only just been reached for about half of the land in question.

When the right of way is officially purchased by the Memphis Connectors Group, Shelby County will take over legal jurisdiction of the land. Approximately 6 miles of the rail-line, from Polar and Tillman to Shelby Farms Park, is the band of land under consideration. The final half of the greenline, from Shelby Farms east, is a second priority for the Greater Memphis Greenline organization. The political wherewithal required to acquire the property from CSX, at least initially Lerner explained, is more likely to come from developing the corridor where it runs through well-populated areas. To date, CSX has pulled the old rail road ties from it’s western most point to Shelby Farms, and the Greater Memphis Greenline expects to begin plans for resurfacing within the year.

Greenline projects inevitably draw criticism. Neighborhoods worry that increased access to their back yards will prove alluring to criminals, a point carefully negotiated by the Vollintine Evergreen Community Association (VECA) when that group began to establish its 1.7 mile greenline years ago. Today, walkers and students enjoy the greenline’s arboretum while joggers and bicyclists recreate in a car-free public space. Time has proven VECA’s greenline to be an amenity rather than a liability.
Greenlines are bold delineations of a sensible city, a symbol that a city is focused on improving the quality of life for all its people. For bicyclists in particular, the CSX Greenline may represent the single biggest step forward in Memphis’ history.

Keep up with the Greater Memphis Greenline’s progress on their webpage at:

No comments:

Post a Comment