Q&A: Diana Threadgill, 

Project Director for the Mississippi River Natural and Recreational Corridor

Forget the beach. A local group would rather you enjoyed the waters closer to home.

While recreation along the Tennessee bank of the Mississippi River is scarce, a new group led by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation is planning the Mississippi River Natural and Recreational Corridor. The riverside parkway will pass through Shelby County to Tipton, Lauderdale, Dyer, Lake, and Obion counties with museums, wildlife areas, bed-and-breakfasts, nature trails, and other forms of recreation lining the route.

The project is estimated to cost about $380 million over the next 20 years. An economic study estimates the corridor will create 11,000 jobs for the six counties and have an economic impact of $13.2 billion.

Diana Threadgill, project director for the corridor, introduced the plan at a public meeting on Mud Island River Park last week. -- By Bianca Phillips

Flyer: What route will the corridor follow?

Threadgill: The corridor starts at T.O. Fuller State Park and the Chucalissa Museum and then goes all the way to Reelfoot Lake. The final route will be determined at a three-day transportation summit meeting in November.

How many new roads will be built?

We will take over existing roads, and we'll build new ones to provide access to the river. There will be an adjacent safe bikeway that will be built along the parkway, and there will be trails that that will lead you to the river.

Of primary importance right now is being a part of the planning for Interstate 69 so that we can get the appropriate access roads that will come off I-69 to our parkway.

How far along is the project?

Right now, we're unveiling this project to the public. Committees will meet in each county, and they'll decide what their top assets are that need enhancements along the corridor. Then we'll set about identifying probably 20 to 30 assets, and we'll proceed to raise money for them.

What are some possible assets in Shelby County?

There is a biology research center at Meeman Shelby Forest, and we're trying to build an interpretive center there. We would purchase a house and land adjacent to the center so the public can come and learn about the wildlife and fish in the area.

Will this include more development along the Memphis riverfront?

We're not concentrating on buying land in Memphis and Shelby County. We're concentrating on areas in the northern counties, like Lauderdale and Tipton.

The Memphis riverfront is very accessible to the public right now. There's a beautiful new river trail that starts at Martyrs Park. Memphis does not need us as much as the northern counties do.

How soon will people be able to utilize the corridor?

You'll be able to start riding large portions of the parkway within five years. The 20-year mark is when the industry of recreation and the economic development will be truly felt in all six counties, from tours, to outfitters, to bed-and-breakfasts. We're creating an industry. It's not just a parkway.

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