Rails to Trails 

The Great Memphis Greenline gets a preliminary agreement to acquire the former CSX railway.

With a lack of maintained sidewalks — and no sidewalks at all in some places — walking from Memphis to Cordova would be quite a feat.

But once the proposed Greater Memphis Greenline is complete, a walking/biking path along the abandoned CSX rail corridor will run from the heart of the city to its easternmost suburb.

Last week, Memphis Community Connector, Inc., the nonprofit group behind the greenline negotiations, struck a preliminary deal to acquire a portion of the rail line for $5 million.

Negotiations to acquire the CSX railway have been ongoing for four years. Previously, city and county officials balked when the rail company demanded $17 million for the entire 13-mile corridor.

"The preliminary agreement covers the trail from Poplar and Walnut Grove to Tillman at the overpass to Farm Road in Shelby Farms," says Bob Schreiber, chairman of the Greater Memphis Greenline board. "We're still working on getting the rest."

Once completed, the entire trail will stretch from Tillman and Walnut Grove to Macon and Lenow in Cordova. The walking path will occupy only 20 feet of the trail's 100-foot width, leaving room for other attractions, such as an equestrian path, dog parks, or picnic areas.

"We are working with neighborhood associations to find out what attractions they're interested in having on their area of trail," Schreiber says.

The trail also will run directly past the northwest corner of Shelby Farms, allowing for much-needed bike and pedestrian access into the park.

Schreiber hopes that the trail will reach into downtown if other rail lines become available. In the past, the City Council has discussed rerouting trains around the outskirts of the city.

Besides the obvious boost in recreational opportunities for Memphians, Schreiber says greenlines in other cities have been responsible for increased property values near the line, a stimulated economy, and lower crime rates.

"It's been found in city after city that the crime rate [near a greenline] decreases, because there are more eyes in public and it leads to neighborhood cohesion," Schreiber says. "It stimulates economic activity when someone comes in and puts up a Coca-Cola stand on the trail. Thirty years later, it's a shopping center."

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