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Urban trails are places to exercise and get back to nature

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With all the pollution created by trains, planes, automobiles and ships, it is a wonder that our air is even breathable. We know that fresh air is not as readily available as it was years ago. We also know that our bodies don't get the proper exercise needed when we ride in motorized vehicles everywhere we go. So, consider bringing out that bicycle that has been in mothballs for the last 20 or so years, or just take a hike or a jog on one of our urban trails.

In recent years there have been many trails opened up primarily for riding bikes, hiking and jogging. Many of these are part of the "Rails-to-Trails Conservancy". This particular program has converted abandoned railway lines into those type of trails. This project has opened up scenic routes for bikes and foot traffic in the country and in some cities. The best thing about these Rail-to-Trail networks is the fact that you do not have to compete with motorized vehicles, for most of them are forbidden on these trails.

There are many Rail-to-Trails across the U.S., but we will only list the ones in the Memphis metropolitan area here. The list was compiled by TrailLink and by the "Rails-to-Trails Conservancy." Their list includes:

"Shelby Farms Greenline

Rail-Trail
Length: 6.7 miles
Surface: Asphalt

The Shelby Farms Greenline Trail runs for nearly 7 miles between Tillman Street in Binghampton (east of Midtown Memphis) and Farm Road in Shelby Farms. The greenline is built upon the bed of a former CSX Railroad line, which was abandoned in 2001. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset and night-time use is prohibited.

Riverbluff Walkway

Rail-Trail
Length: 1.2 miles
Surface: Concrete

The Riverbluff Walkway offers scenic views of the Mississippi River as it traverses the edge of downtown Memphis. The trail is built on top of the Chickasaw Bluff, which has been put to good use by the city—in addition to the Riverbluff Walkway, beautiful homes, new parks and an active rail line rest on the bluff.

The trail is immediately adjacent to the rail corridor, which is used by the MATA Trolley’s Riverfront Loop, along its northern stretch. The rail-with-trail passes next to two stations on the line, allowing for easy access by foot or bike to the trolley. The loop carries passengers to downtown Memphis.

Towards the southern end of the trail, the trail runs through the gated South Bluffs community, before turning to cross a pedestrian bridge over Riverside Drive. In Ashburn-Coppock Park, the Riverbluff Walkway meets the Mississippi Riverwalk, which extends north and south along the river below the bluff.

V&E Greenline

Rail-Trail
Length: 1.7 miles
Surface: Ballast, Dirt, Grass

It has been said that it takes a village to build a rail-trail. In the case of the 1.7-mile V&E Greenline, the village in question is the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood. Banding together in the mid-1990s to transform the abandoned railroad corridor into a public green space, this Memphis community continues to maintain and improve the popular trail. During regular Spruce up the Greenline days, volunteers remove debris, rake leaves, plant trees and tend community gardens along this verdant route.

A perfect outlet for those seeking a quiet retreat from city life, the trail provides a safe haven for walkers, runners and cyclists. The route comprises eight contiguous sections: the Springs, the Cut, the Gardens, the Arbors, Lick Creek, Utility Park, West Creek and the West End.

From the east, the shady Springs segment runs between Springdale Street and Jackson Avenue, emerging from the tree canopy on the Cut, a sunken segment where native plants and invasive kudzu do battle.

Across McLean is the Gardens, where more than 30 flower varieties reach their colorful best between February and November. Stop and smell the flowers before continuing to the Arbors, which boasts 15 tree species. Volunteers transplanted many of the latter in July 2003 after hurricane-force winds destroyed hundreds of area trees.

Next in line, Lick Creek, Utility Park and West Creek center on manmade highlights. Adjacent to Auburndale and Evergreen streets, Lick Creek Bridge was built with local help by Keeler Iron Works to replace the original span, which was removed when the railroad stopped running.

Utility Park is an oak-dotted flat that borders a Memphis Light, Gas & Water pumping facility. West Creek Bridge runs behind the Woodmont Towers apartment complex, providing residents with easy trail access.

The route ends at Watkins Street and North Parkway in West End, where residential homes line flanking slopes. Take a stroll along this leafy oasis and you'll understand the parental pride of its urban keepers.

Wolf River Greenway

This is not a Rails-to-Trails project, but it is a great trail.
Length: 1.67 miles
Surface: Asphalt

The Wolf River Greenway runs for nearly 2 miles along the south side of the river through the Wolf River Nature Area. The trail provides access to picnic facilities, restrooms, and wildflower meadows along its paved corridor."

For more information on these type trails, visit Memphis Trails.

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