RTC SpringSummer 2015 Issue_final - page 13

in particular also helped tremendously in
negotiations with CSX. Railroad compa-
nies are famously tough negotiators, and
this case was no exception. But in early
2009, the sale went through. Another very
good day.
In addition, the greenline project won
a $1.5 million federal grant, leaving only
about $375,000
in matching funds
for Shelby County
to pay. Under the
terms of the deal,
the county would
assume ownership
of the trail, and
the Shelby Farms
Park Conservancy
) would oper-
ate it.
Laura Morris,
executive director
of the conservancy,
recalls adding this
responsibility on
to the oversight of
what was already the largest urban park in
the United States. “It was definitely some-
thing to think about because we were tak-
ing on management of six-and-a-half addi-
tional miles with no additional funding…
but it was an easy ‘yes’ for us. Managing
the greenline as part of Shelby Farms
meant that we could have a direct con-
nection back to the core of the city, which
totally fit our mission.”
Not everyone was so eager to get on
Critics and Converts
With most funding coming from private
donations and a federal grant, the greenline
cost relatively little in local tax dollars. Still,
local support was hugely important. And
one key to securing it was advocacy by A
CWharton, who was mayor of Shelby
County when the deal found traction, and
became mayor of Memphis in October
2009, during implementation.
The greatest resistance, Wharton
remembers, came from people who saw the
greenline as an inappropriate priority—a
luxury for the affluent at the expense of
potential programs for the poor. Poverty
rates in Memphis and Shelby County at the
time were estimated at 20 to 25 percent.
“Keep in mind that this is Memphis,
Tennessee, where Dr. [Martin Luther]
King was assassinated, and race is an ever-
present con-
in most of
our major
here,” notes
who is black. “There were a number of
arguments made to me, particularly from
the urban commissioners, that the trail
would not serve the core city, black people
Wharton’s answers hit several points.
First, he noted that the west end of the
greenline would go through the low-income
neighborhood of Binghampton, giving its
residents prime access to what promised
to become a coveted amenity. Second, he
vowed to support a network of future trails
and bike lanes that would connect to the
greenline, easing access and heightening
benefits in other parts of town. Third, he
Phillip Parker/AP Images
courtesy shelby farms park conservancy
The greenline
has helped to
create a more
physically active
Hal Nelson
and his dog
are daily
walkers on
the Shelby
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