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Old Posted Feb 11, 2010, 2:25 AM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Ground broken on first section of Wolf River Greenway
the Commercial Appeal | By Don Wade

On a chilly morning better suited to riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill inside a health club, three cycling friends with homes in Downtown, Bartlett and Germantown stood in the cold to watch the symbolic ground-breaking of the Wolf River Greenway. “This is wonderful,” Joyce Hudak, who lives Downtown, said this morning moments before Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, City Councilman Bill Boyd and others used gold-painted shovels to turn dirt under the bridge near the intersection of Walnut Grove Road and Humphreys Boulevard. “I hope they see it through to completion." Her friends, Brenda Ross of Bartlett and Cathy Distretti of Germantown, agreed. Together, the three middle-age women represented how the eventual 22-mile greenway, which will run along the north side of the Wolf River from Mud Island to Houston Levee Road, will sew the community together with so many green threads. “We’re building trails to connect our people,” Wharton said before about 250 onlookers. “That makes it one Memphis.”

Previous projections for when the 22-mile trail would be completed have ranged from 10 to 15 years. The ground-breaking today took place at the site of the first segment (part of Phase II), a 1.3-mile path between Walnut Grove and Shady Grove roads, adjacent to Humphreys Blvd. Citing current civic “fiscal constraints,” Boyd said, “I would hesitate to put a time limit” on when the greenway would be completed. Wharton did not hesitate. “We had all the various links (planned) going back to 2004,” the mayor said. “It will go a link at a time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I would think over the next six, seven years it will be completed link by link.”

Construction of the first link, which will cost around $1.4 million, is to begin in a few days. On Thursday morning at 10, there will be another symbolic groundbreaking at Farm Road and Mullins Station for Shelby Farms Greenline, a rails-to-trails project on an abandoned stretch of CSX Railroad right-of-way secured by Shelby County largely with privately raised money. Phase I of the Greenline is a $2.4 million, 6.5-mile path that will connect several Midtown and East Memphis neighborhoods with Shelby Farms Park’s 4,500 acres. Rick Masson, executive director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, said it is “absolutely realistic” to finish the greenline and the greenway within the mayor’s six-to-seven-year projection.

Masson believes the completion of the respective trail systems will enhance Memphis in multiple ways. “It will greatly improve our self-image,” Masson said. “But it’s more than self-image. It will help make us healthier and get along better.” Cathy Distretti can’t wait to start pedaling on the new paths. Yes, she’s aware some people are concerned about crime on isolated stretches of the trails. But she has read where in other cities with greenways crime in those areas actually has gone down. Besides, she and her friends will do what they do now when they have to share the road with motorists – turn the wheels together. “We always ride in a group,” she said. “There’s safety in numbers.”

Last edited by Johnny Ryall; Aug 2, 2013 at 2:02 PM.
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