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    ‘Greenprint' envisions 500 miles of off-street trails, 200 miles of bike lanes

    Tom Charlier

    March 05, 2014- One of Memphis' bike lanes along Overton Park Ave, Wednesday. Memphis currently has 133.5 miles of bike lanes and is projected to have 273.3 by 2016. (Brad Vest/The Commercial Appeal)


    After two and a half years of work involving 80 groups in three states, local officials on Thursday will unveil a plan calling for the completion of 500 miles of off-street trails and 200 miles of bike lanes connecting parks, neighborhoods and job sites across Greater Memphis by 2040.
    The Mid-South Greenprint & Sustainability Plan, building on high-profile projects like the Shelby Farms Greenline and Harahan Bridge Boardwalk, says expanding the local network of bicycling and pedestrian routes and open spaces would help improve residents’ health, enhance local recreation and transportation options, fortify the tax base and attract talented professionals and good jobs.
    The 25-year plan will be formally released at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Memphis Botanic Garden in an event featuring Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and other officials. It was produced by a consortium of groups led by the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability with help from the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, which has made expanding green space one of its five “moon missions” for the area.
    The planning began when the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability won a $2.6 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant in 2011. Having been adopted by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, the plan still awaits approval from 21 other municipal and county governments. “Now, the trick, though, is to take it to implementation,” said John Zeanah, administrator of the Office of Sustainability.
    As envisioned in the plan, which covers Shelby, Crittenden, DeSoto and part of Fayette counties, the trails and green-space corridors would link 95 percent of the parks and recreational facilities in the area, including such major sites as Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Arkabutla Lake, T.O. Fuller State Park and Herb Parsons Lake. Eighty percent of households would be within a mile of a trail.
    Some of the projects in the plan already are in some phase of development. No overall price for the network has been set, but off-street trails can cost $770,000 per mile. Major funding likely would come from federal and state grants, although officials said they would explore other options, as well.
    The investment would be well worth it, planners said. Trail projects tend to generate jobs and boost the value of nearby property, strengthening the local tax base.
    “There’s a real economic value to having these amenities,” said Robin Smithwick, who heads the green-space initiative for the Chairman Circle, which is made up of more than 100 area business leaders.
    Phil Trenary, the chamber’s president and CEO, said the plan also could make Greater Memphis more attractive to advanced industries and young professionals.
    Just as importantly, he said, the regional cooperation shown in the planning process could serve as a model for dealing with other issues. “I’ve been here 17 years, and I haven’t seen anything close to this level of collaboration,” Trenary said.
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