The Concept Map for a regional network of connected green infrastructure represents the core element of the Mid-South Greenprint and Sustainability Plan. Through developing a network of green space connecting three states, the Mid-South region is able to not only provide a world-class green space amenity to residents of the region, but address the vision statements that form the basis for this plan.
The Concept Map is the product of input from public meetings, surveys, stakeholder meetings, Consortium and working group input, field observation of potential greenway corridors, a level of service analysis, a desire to connect across neighborhoods and town centers, and a regional goal to connect to major parks and conservation areas.
The result is a concept for a regional interconnected network of parks and trails to be developed by 2040. The full regional network includes 499 miles of greenway trails and 196 miles of on-road connectors. Of these recommendations, 51 miles of greenway trails and 41 miles of on-road connectors exist today. The Concept Map recommends adding 448 miles of new greenway trails and 155 miles of new on-road connectors by 2040.
This network allows for the various parts of the region to be connected through a variety of pathways and provides for safe, enjoyable alternative transportation routes. It enables residents to come in closer proximity to our region’s most vital natural resources, including streams, key conservation and wildlife lands, and major regional parks. Finally, it creates needed connections between cities and communities and areas of high opportunity, such as employment centers, so implementation of the plan can lift all residents of the region.
By tying together these areas, the resulting green infrastructure will allow for much greater access to all parts of the region and achieve the goals expressed in the Vision and Strategic Directions of this plan.
The Concept Map provides a long-term vision of priority investments in green infrastructure and connectivity in the region. The proposed trail corridors represent the potential skeleton for regional green connectivity to jobs, neighborhoods, parks, centers of commerce, and natural areas. Like the road system, this network of regional green corridors will be connected by many smaller, localized connections. The map is aspirational and provides guidance for regional investments over the next decades.
The Concept Map is meant to demonstrate recommendations for regional interconnectivity, and does not devalue projects proposed at the community or neighborhood scale. Rather, regional partners are encouraged to consider the regional framework when planning and implementing smaller projects not included on the Concept Map, especially projects that provide connections to and enhance the regional framework.
The maps on the following pages demonstrate the layers considered in the development of the Concept Map for a regional network of connected green infrastructure. The core and framework of the entire green infrastructure network is the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including the Loosahatchie River, Wolf River, Nonconnah Creek, Horn Lake Creek, and many others. Parks, conservation areas, farmland, blueways, greenway trails, bicycle and pedestrian streets, and more are all part of this network, serving as much more than just recreational opportunities. These “green infrastructure” components conserve open space close to where people live and work, soften the patterns of urban growth, mitigate water and air pollution, protect wildlife habitat, provide viable means for active transportation, promote economic growth and improve the quality of everyday life.
Recommendations reflected on the Concept Map were developed through consideration for how a regional green space network would connect open space resources, from parks, streams, employment, population, and transportation. The maps represent the work of the consortium to develop a strategic framework for regional sustainability to ensure the Greenprint concept provides transportation options, health and environmental benefits, and community and economic development, in addition to a recreational amenity. Connections to employment centers and traditionally underserved areas are also identified on the map in order to maximize the social and economic benefits of the proposed network.
The central framework for the Greenprint is a network of green space. The development of the Concept Map network considered existing parks, wildlife areas, farmland and other working lands, conservation areas, wetlands, water, and floodplains. The map also considered existing greenways, trails, and blueways throughout the region. These areas are important for recreation, physical fitness and health, and environmental protection. Wildlife areas and forests are important destinations along the network for humans and animals and protection of farmland helps ensure local food production. Parks are major destinations within communities across the region, and serve as the primary green space hubs used to formthe Greenprint network. New hubs based on the land sensitivity analysis are recommended for protection as part of the network. The proposed network of connected green infrastructure links to 95% of the large park acreage in the region.
Prior to the development of the Concept Map, a field analysis of potential future greenway corridors was conducted to determine opportunities and constraints related to greenway development. Many corridors follow naturally-occurring pathways in the region, such as stream corridors and connections between watersheds. One critical challenge to developing the Concept Map was not only to connect east-west along major tributaries, but also north-south between stream corridors.
A healthy and functioning water system is the lifeblood of our region. The Mississippi River and its tributaries are the basis for a rich, natural environment. This system includes the waterways themselves as well as the associated forests, wetlands, bottomlands, floodplain, lakes and ponds and the groundwater system including the water table, aquifer layers, and aquifer recharge areas. This system continues to support the natural environment and population within the region. In order to continue to function, the water system needs to be kept free of contaminants, free of encroachment and, to the fullest extent practical, minimally fragmented by roads, utilities, bridges and other obstructions.
The Greenprint network is intended to improve walking and biking access to green space, town centers, jobs, schools, health services, and other destinations across the region. If implemented today, the region would exceed a goal of providing 0.5 miles of greenway trail per 1,000 residents and 78% of the region’s population would live within one mile of a Greenprint corridor.
The Concept Map was developed with both connectivity and density in mind. Trail corridors are drawn to create a looping pattern, both small loops and larger loops, in order to encircle communities, population, town centers, and employment centers. This looping pattern allows for greater connectivity from and across all communities in the region. The size of loops is drawn to follow patterns of density. Generally, tighter loops are drawn within the urban core of the region and loops widen in less densely populated suburban and rural areas of the region.
The future growth of the region has an impact on Greenprint access and investments. If the region grows over the next 25 years in a manner consistent with trends of the recent past (“Trend Scenario,” illustrated on the following page), the impact of investing in the Greenprint is diminished as compared to a pattern of infill development (“Infill Scenario”) which considers a shift of roughly 20% in development of undevelopable land to developable infill, or previously developed land. The infill scenario not only brings more households and jobs closer to Greenprint corridors, but stabilizes population in urbanized areas of the region (includingsome suburbs), and stems the consumption of farmland and urbanization of rural communities of the region.
As the region grows, the Concept Map envisions development of housing and commercial areas to focus
around existing communities, with attention to existing town centers. Town and city centers are where many of day-to-day destinations and services are located, making them important for connectivity. Areas of focus for housing and commercial revitalization included on the Concept Map were identified by local land use plans, Consortium input, and input from local planners.
A primary goal of the Greenprint network is to serve as a transportation network for residents of the region. As such, connecting greenway trails to other modes of transportation such as bicycle lanes and fixed bus routes is necessary. In comparing bicycle infrastructure and transit in the region, areas of correspondence in the urban core are evident, while most areas of the region have no formal connections between these two modes. This is primarily due to the fact that transit service, provided by Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is not extended beyond the city of Memphis, with few exceptions in West Memphis, Bartlett, and Germantown.
Service by transit and other alternative modes of transportation are key to accessing employment, services, healthy food, activities, and green space, particularly for the estimated 30% or more of the
population that does not drive due to age, physical ability, or household income. Today, the transit network is based on a radial pattern of routes converging into downtown Memphis. While downtown Memphis is a critical hub for population, employment, and commerce, the spread of population and employment density extends throughout the region, suggesting the need for greater connectivity to population and employment across all modes of transportation.
In developing the Greenprint network with respect to public transportation and bicycle facilities, attention was placed on both creating points of intersection between transit, bicycle lanes, and greenways, as well as relying on transit and bicycle facilities to connect inside loops of the network. In this way, the looping pattern of greenways complements the radial transit network to serve a broader area of population and employment.
The Concept Map contains 196 miles of Key On-Street Connectors, bicycle-friendly streets connecting the regional system where off-road routes are not possible. Today, the region has approximately 250 miles of on-road bicycle facilities. Of these, 41 existing miles align directly with Key On-Street Connectors recommended on the Concept Map. One such connector, connecting Meeman-Shelby Forest to DeSoto County along U.S. Highway 51, also is one of the highest frequency transit routes in the network. This north-south transit corridor connects to two high frequency transit
routes along Jackson Avenue and Poplar Avenue running east-west. These two routes serve to provide critical greenway transit connections along key points in the network, but also bisect loops of the Greenprint network, among other key connections. Further, as the regional bicycle network continues to develop, these routes also connect within loops.
Employment density in the Mid-South is spread similar to population density. In addition to downtown Memphis and the Medical District, major employment areas exist south into Southaven and Olive Branch, Mississippi, north to Millington, and east to Collierville. The largest employment center in the region is the Airport area, with close to 100,000 jobs.
Commuting to work in the Mid-South region is predominantly by driving alone. The physical development patterns and locations of home and work in the region have resulted in a lower percentage of alternative transportation than the national average. Connecting the Greenprint to employment areas is critical for beginning to increase the share of individuals commuting to work by bicycle, transit, or a combination of the two.
Several major employment areas in the region are well connected to the Greenprint network through greenways proposed for major tributaries. For example, the Wolf River connects downtown Memphis through the Shelby Oaks and Poplar/I-240 employment center east to Collierville. Nonconnah Creek connects major employment centers west of the Airport along Brooks Road, east through the Airport to Collierville, with adjoining north-south routes extending across the Tennessee-Mississippi state lines into Southaven and Olive Branch employment areas. Many of the connections extending across the Tennessee-Mississippi state line are critical for individuals who depend on transit, but cannot access service in DeSoto County.
If implemented today, 79% of the region’s jobs would be within one mile of a Greenprint corridor. Connecting this network to existing and planned alternative transportation could provide a significant benefit for access to employment.
A final consideration in the development of the Greenprint network is areas of priority for social equity. These traditionally underserved areas were highlighted during the development of the Concept Map in order to maximize the social and economic benefits of the proposed network in areas of greatest need. Priority social equity areas were derived by analyzing rates of poverty, households without vehicles, non-white populations, and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations. Greater percentages of these rates correspond to higher equity scores.
Households in poverty and with limited access to jobs have health, social, and economic disparities that can be improved by better access to employment areas, services, and quality of life amenities such as green infrastructure and safe green spaces for physical activity. The areas of greatest need based on the social equity index are generally within the core of Memphis and in West Memphis. Priority social equity areas are generally located in higher-density urban environments, meaning there is often less space available for traditional greenway trails. However, Key On-Street Connectors are strategically drawn to connect to greenway trails, such as the Chelsea Greenline and South Memphis Greenway, which could serve to influence redevelopment. In addition, these connections are drawn to link up to more regional connections, such as the Wolf River Greenway and Nonconnah Corridor, which connects these areas to high opportunity areas such as major