The City of Memphis is preparing for several new road projects, one of which will ultimately provide a benefit for Overton Park users. As the City repaves Cooper St. from Central to Washington, they will be adding bike lanes on Cooper. The project will stop just shy of Poplar Avenue for now, and then continue north into the park after a landing space has been constructed at the Cooper entrance to Overton Park.
The Poplar/Cooper Connector project has been in the works for several years now. Our goal is to improve access for bikes, pedestrians, and wheelchairs at this entry point to the park. Although it’s highly trafficked, this location has no sidewalk or trail connection, sending park visitors over worn patches of grass until they reach the trail system. The City has received a TDOT grant to create a landing and trail connection, and Overton Park Conservancy has raised 100% of our committed matching funds toward the project thanks to the First Tennessee Foundation and park supporters.
The design phase will soon be underway, with boundary and topographical surveys set to begin Tuesday, March 21. We hope to break ground in 2018.
This project was conceived, along with several other access improvement concepts, several years ago when the Conservancy participated in the Mid-South Regional Greenprint planning effort. Through a series of public meetings, we learned how visitors accessed the park, and the kind of improvements they needed to feel safe and comfortable coming to the park without their vehicles. After our board voted to support several projects (excluding for now any work immediately adjacent to the Old Forest State Natural Area), we began seeking funding. The Poplar/Cooper Connector is fully funded along with crosswalk improvements at Poplar & Tucker. North Parkway sidewalk improvements were partially completed by the City of Memphis last year, and we are currently seeking funding for the continuation of that sidewalk to the park entrance across from Rhodes College, which will include a pedestrian-activated flashing crosswalk signal.
The City is seeking input on its upcoming road projects, including bike lanes, with a public meeting scheduled for Monday, March 27. You can learn more about that here. These bike lanes will be critically important to our goal of providing safe and convenient access into the park for people on foot, in wheelchairs, and on bikes.
We’re excited to move several Greenprint projects into the implementation stage in the near future, once again highlighting the importance of this urban park as a hub in our regional network of parks, trails and green space!