Commercial Appeal recognizes Shelby Farms Pedestrian Bridge

Work to begin on pedestrian/cycling bridge over Wolf River

Peaceful and scenic though it may be, the Wolf River poses a major barrier to recreational opportunities in Memphis.

But not for much longer.

In its third ground-breaking in two months, the group operating Shelby Farms Park began work Wednesday on a 200-foot-long pedestrian and cycling bridge over the river that will connect trail systems in the park with the city’s planned Wolf River Greenway.

Located about a mile upstream from the Walnut Grove Road bridge, near where Shady Grove Road meets Humphreys Boulevard, the steel-truss span will form part of a link that eventually will connect the Shelby Farms Greenline, a rails-to-trails project now under construction between Shelby Farms and Midtown, with the Greenway. Completion is set for this fall.

“This bridge really is a bridge to the future for Shelby Farms Park,” said Barbara Hyde, president of the Hyde Family Foundations, which is funding many of the park improvements, and chairwoman of the committee overseeing the park’s master plan.

The bridge, costing $1.85 million, is part of $75 million of privately funded improvements either under construction or being developed at the 4,500-acre park between East Memphis and Cordova. Other projects include an innovative playground, the enlargement of Patriot Lake and the planting of 1 million trees.

Former AutoZone president Peter Formanek, a “major funder” for the bridge project, said Shelby Farms symbolizes “one area where Shelby County can really be the leader” nationally.

The bridge design features a custom wooden “liner” that provides a 12-foot-wide deck and shapes the views that walkers, cyclists and others will get as they cross the Wolf. Toward the north, or park side of the bridge, the plank siding of the deck gradually falls away to convey greater views and a sensation of crossing the river.

“The design is actually a strategic and a poetic one,” said Richard Kennedy, senior associate with field operations, the New York landscape architecture and urban design firm that prepared the Shelby Farms master plan and is designing the projects.

“It’s really about dramatizing that experience of entering into the park.”

The bridge will connect not only with paved trails but the primitive trails through the forest in the Lucius E. Burch Jr. State Natural Area.

The bridge truss is being assembled off-site. The construction will not result in a net loss of any primitive trails, said Laura Adams, deputy director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, which operates the park under an agreement with the county.

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