History of the Greenway

It was a Wolf River Conservancy board member - Charles Askew - who convinced the Memphis City Council and City of Memphis Park Services to fund a $100,000 master plan (completed by ETI Corporation) for the 22-mile Wolf River Greenway through the city of Memphis along the Wolf River corridor.  The plan was completed in 2003, but no action was taken toward actually building the Greenway.  The City of Germantown on the other hand, had already completed a two-mile greenway along the Wolf River, which was enormously popular.

Frustrated, the Wolf River Conservancy asked for advice and assistance from Memphis Tomorrow, a group of Memphis CEO's which works to implement important initiatives to create a stronger, more attractive community for Memphis businesses and residents. Memphis Tomorrow suggested linking our vision for a Wolf River Greenway with Shelby Farms Park and a 13-mile abandoned rail corridor known as the “Greenline”  (today called the Shelby Farms Greenline). The group envisioned two long trails through the city, which intersected at Shelby Farms Park, forming a giant "X" and connecting diverse neighborhoods with the largest urban park in the nation.  Memphis Tomorrow then suggested that, armed with this exciting, transformative vision for the future, that we convince Mayor W.W. Herenton to support the project.

In February 2007 the Wolf River Conservancy in conjunction with Shelby Farms Park Conservancy and the Greater Memphis Greenline group held a "Greening Greater Memphis" meeting at the Memphis Botanic Garden. The Commercial Appeal assisted with an endorsement from their editorial department and a week's worth of guest editorials, and WRC sent out an urgent appeal to its members.  The meeting was open to public and was to be held on a Wednesday evening.  That night, more than 1,000 people squeezed into 500-seat Hardin Hall, lining the walls and doorways and spilling into the hallways.  Memphis Mayor Herenton, Shelby County Mayor Wharton, and Germantown Mayor Goldsworthy all attended, and Mayor Herenton finally promised to build the Wolf River Greenway.  Representatives of the Hyde Family Foundations were also present at the meeting and, impressed with the overwhelming grassroots support for the project, they decided to fund both the Wolf River Conservancy and Memphis Park Services in expediting the Greenway's construction. This gave rise to a public-private partnership between the Wolf River Conservancy, Hyde Family Foundations and the City of Memphis to undertake development of the Greenway.

Since 2007, two sections of the Memphis Wolf River Greenway have been completed.  The first section, from Walnut Grove Road to Shady Grove Road, was finished in 2010.  This section includes a pedestrian bridge over the Wolf River, which links the Shelby Farms Greenline with the Wolf River Greenway through Shelby Farms Park.  The most recently completed section of the Wolf River Greenway continues from Shady Grove Road to the city limit of Germantown and was completed in August 2012.  The city of Germantown constructed a trail to link the Memphis portion of the Greenway with the existing Germantown Greenway, now making it possible for bikers, runners and walkers to travel 4 uninterrupted miles from Germantown Parkway to Walnut Grove Road on the Wolf River Greenway.

Future phases of the Wolf River Greenway will extend from Mud Island, to midtown Memphis and the north central Memphis neighborhoods of Frayser, Douglass Park and Raleigh, to Kennedy Park. From Kennedy Park, the Greenway will continue along the east side of the Wolf River through scenic upland forests connecting with the Shelby Farms Greenline and Shelby Farms Park, and then link with the completed sections of the Greenway at Walnut Grove Road. These phases were made possible by the generous contributions of funding, trail easements and land from the City of Memphis, Hyde Family Foundations, Boyle Investment Company, The Boyle Family, and The Henry and Snow Morgan Family. The Wolf River Conservancy has led fund raising efforts for the Greenway project, receiving significant financial contributions from local philanthropic organizations and foundations.

One section at a time - each a different phase of the project with unique obstacles and constraints - the Wolf River Greenway is becoming a reality (click here to view phasing map). Currently, planning, design and construction of the Memphis portion of the Greenway is being undertaken by a team of consultants led by Alta Planning + Design in conjunction with ETI Corporation, DHM, Tetra Tech, Pique Marketing, and Archer-Malmo. The Conservancy and City of Memphis wants to have the 23-mile Memphis Wolf River Greenway completed by 2020, perhaps earlier.  At the same time, the adjoining communities of Germantown and Collierville will be completing their portions of the Greenway.  One day, with the support of our members and our community, there will be a continuous 36-mile corridor of trails and protected green space along the Wolf River from Collierville to Shelby Farms Park to Mud Island.