The Memphis Transformation – Wolf River Greenway

Bicycle-Pedestrian Planning, Healthy Living, South, Trail Design

by Wade Walker, Regional Engineering Manager

Last week, the Alta crew headed off to my hometown, Memphis, TN, to begin design work on the 18-mile-long Wolf River Greenway. Alta will lead the efforts in planning, design, and implementation of a 22-mile trail along the Wolf River Corridor in Memphis. It will connect the eastern suburbs of Memphis westward to where the Wolf River joins the mighty Mississippi River. A portion of the trail has been built on the eastern edge near Shelby Farms Park (one of the nation’s largest urban parks at over 4,500 acres) and our project will begin at the confluence of the Wolf and Mississippi Rivers at Mud Island and head eastward to join the existing trail segments. This project will be a monumental project for the City of Memphis and will help in recovering from being named as one of the worst cities in America for cycling in recent years.

In addition to the miles of multi-use trails this project will create, it will also create several cycle tracks for the on-street connections. If all goes well, we could stand to have an additional 2–4 cycle tracks implemented in Memphis on top of our HampLine cycletrack, which is currently under construction. This is big deal to get these implemented here in the South.

The purpose of the charrette was to “snap” the final route and alignment for the Greenway through field investigations and design collaboration.  Our mornings were spent walking river bottoms and sloughs, neighborhoods, and through the woods (and sometimes along train tracks) to identify the final alignment for the Greenway that would proceed into design development and construction documents.  The timeline on the project is dictated by the fact that the benefactor and silent donor wants the entire project completed and on the ground within 5 years, so we were literally off and running.

The Alta Southeast team was led by Chuck Flink, and included Mike Repsch, Blake Sanders, Erin Rushing, Oliver Seabolt, and George Hudson from Alta. The team also included Mark Lindstrom (ETI, local landscape architect), Frank Gianotti and Doug Dietz from Tetratech, and Bob Searns and Bill Neumann.  Our clients, the Wolf River Conservancy, were gracious hosts and Bob Wenner, Keith Cole, and Ryan Hall kept the ball rolling from the client end.

The team also met with various agencies such as TDEC, TDOT, Corps of Engineers, City Parks and Engineering, and the Mayor’s Office to understand the regulatory requirements necessary to achieve the quick implementation.   After all the fieldwork and meetings, the team had a preferred routing and alignment, which was presented to the Conservancy’s Board of Directors on Friday morning.  Based on the positive feedback, we are proceeding into design work.

Stay tuned for more great things as design work gets underway and we get the first segments under construction sometime in 2015!

Wade Walker

About Wade Walker

Wade is a Principal at Alta. He is a recognized expert in Complete Streets, walkability and Smart Growth and often speaks at national conferences on balanced multimodal solutions. Much of his work is done in a multi-disciplinary charrette setting, working collaboratively with architects, planners, landscape architects, urban designers, and stakeholders to create great communities through a community-driven process.
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