Greening Greater Memphis Public Meeting
February 2007

I arrived at the Botanic Gardens at 5:15 to find the parking lot nearly full. All I could think was WOW, this is bigger that I thought it would be. I parked in one of the few spaces left at the far south end and made my way into the building.

MSTA's table was right at the entrance between Outdoors inc. and Revolutions Community Bike Shop. Traffic was good and I talked to quite a few people. Even signed up a new MSTA member.

At 6:00 we were called to go to the meeting room for the formal presentation. This is when the success of the event became evident. All the chairs were taken and many were standing around the sides of the room. Many people could not enter the room and listened from the hallways. In short, the meeting was wall to wall standing room only. At the end of the meeting one of the garden's staff gave me an estimate of 800 people.

Memphis mayor Willie Herrenton, Shelby County Mayor A. C. Wharton, and Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy were in attendance. A number of county commissioners and city council members attended the meeting also.

Outdoors owner Joe Royer gave the opening remarks. During his speech Joe acknowledged the sweat equity MSTA members put into our trails.

Event moderator Carol Coletta then made remarks and introduced the speakers for the meeting. First was Bob Schriber of Greater Memphis Greenline. Bob spoke about the advantages the rail-trail would bring to the area. Next was Keith Kirkland of the Wolf River Conservancy. Keith spoke about the WRC's to goals of protecting the Wolf River watershed and the Wolf River Greenway. Laura Adams of Shelby Farms Park Alliance gave a short presentation on Shelby Farms history and plans for the future.

Keynote speaker Alex Garvin then took the podium. Alex' firm was hired to research Shelby Farms and it's user groups to provide a guidance framework for the soon coming master planning process. I met and rode with one of Alex' associates in June 2006 and was told I would have a meeting directly with Alex in the future.

The presentation covered the building blocks of a successful "greening" program. Alex displayed information on several other cities already well into their greening process. One large project not too far away is the planned Emerald Necklace that will surround metropolitan Atlanta. One fact stresses is that many people now look for a place they want to live and then look for a job to make that happen. Memphis and Shelby County has to compete for new young talent or fall by the wayside.

The meeting was a great success. Attendance was much greater than anyone had imagined. The crowd was enthusiastic. And our elected officials saw first hand that Shelby County citizens want to stop falling behind other areas in recreation opportunities.

Brad C