The Parkway DOES NOT Free Up 200 Acres

The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy states that the building Shelby Farms Parkway will “free up 200 acres for use by the Park”.

But, they have not created any new acres. The land is already there, and is already used or could be used now. True that the current use is “low intensity”, but they could use the land in various new ways today if they wanted to, and if they spent the funds.

Also, it is very important to understand that the Parkway, and the new entrance road, and the planned 6000 car overflow parking lot “take away” 198-208 acres. Here are the numbers:

From the 200 “freed up acres”, you must
– Subtract 128+ acres for the Parkway
– Subtract 10 acres – New Park entrance road
– Subtract 60-70 acres – 6000 car overflow parking (space per car is higher in unstriped, unpaved parking lots)

Thus, in TOTAL, you must
– Subtract 198-208 acres from the 200 which the Conservancy says are freed up.

2006 Agreement to Parkway Plans are No Longer Valid

Eight years ago in 2006, there was an agreement signed by 15 members of the 17 member Shelby Farms Parkway Advisory Team (sometimes referred to as the “CSS Team”). There were two individuals “not in attendance” at the key meeting, and there were two “proxy” signatures among the 15. Some individuals still support the agreement, saying “It’s a good compromise, people signed it and should stand by it.”

But, there are significant reasons to no longer stand by that 8-year old agreement [CLICK on the blue links for more details on some items]:

Key environmental factors were never shared with team members or with the public;

– The forecast used to justify the road was too high by a 42%;

Traffic in the area of the park is declining;

– The 2006 agreement included a provision that tractor-trailers would not be allowed on the Parkway. However, subsequently, TDOT has informed stakeholders that they would have to be allowed unless an exemption was passed into Federal Law. So far, even though it’s been 8 years, and local officials agree to the exemption, and even though the Conservancy has appealed to Senators and Congressmen, no such exemption has been passed, and there is substantial resistance from the “highway lobby”;

– Some members of the Advisory Team state that it was a collaborative process, and all had a chance to participate. The Team was told that a CSS process would be used, and that it would involve collaboration between the team members, and an openness to planning issues and alternatives. However, discussion was substantially limited and consideration of alternatives was severely constrained;

– The major I-40/240 Interchange Reconstruction project is going to change travel patterns significantly, and will substantially reduce the amount of traffic that diverts through the park, further reducing the need for the Parkway;

– The city, county, and state have significant budget issues;

– The true cost of this project is still not known. It has gone up from $15.5 million (DSEIS) to $35.8 million (TDOT April 2014 document), and the costs of environmental mitigations are still not included in the calculations;

– The project has had no “Cost-Benefit Analysis”, whereas other proposed major Memphis area projects do have such an analysis (and should have a higher priority if well justified).

Section 4(f) “de minimis” NOT valid

Federal Law (“Section 4(f)”) requires special procedures be followed when you want to take any park land in order to build a roadway across a public park.

The issue even went to the Supreme Court in 1971 (“Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe”)- In the published opinion in that case Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, “Section 4(f) ‘is a plain and explicit bar to the use of federal funds for construction of highways through parks; only the most unusual situations are exempted.’ Further, the court recognized the place of cost, directness of route, and community disruption in highway routing, but that the existence of the statute “indicates that protection of parkland was to be given paramount importance.”

So, according this Federal Law, what is a “Park”? Well, the law makes no distinction, nor definition of a park. Section 4(f) does not say that only “recreational areas” of a park are protected- thus, all areas of any public park are protected. Further, Shelby Farms Parkway officials, and the Memphis and Shelby County Mayors (current and previous) have each stated numerous times that Shelby Farms Park is 4500 acres.

The law does allow that “some” of the park can be taken for a roadway, if certain procedures are followed. Two of those procedures are that- 1) The public must be told that they have a say-so in any “de minimis determination” (meaning they have the right to comment on whether they feel the impact is “negligible”), and 2) “the officials responsible for the park” must declare in writing that the plans, including “mitigations”, will have “de minimis” impact on the park. (Note that the Executive Director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy has done so in a letter to TDOT on June 2, 2014. See comment about the letter below.)

Well, here is what’s wrong any de minimis determination, and with the Conservancy’s letter:

– The Conservancy’s letter claims that the Conservation Easement specifically excludes “Alignment Q”, which is TDOT’s current planned alignment. Actually, the Appendix of the Easement excludes a non-specific right of way for a parkway. On the other hand, the first paragraph of the “Grant” section of the Easement requires that the Conservancy to “protect, maintain, preserve, and enhance” the “conservation, natural, scenic, … [17 environmental attributes of the Property]”.

– The public was never informed of what “de minimis” means, and what their role is in determining if the impact should be considered to be minimis”.

– TDOT even stated that “We never define ‘de minimis’ in our public notices.”

– Plans for the road require over 128 acres of park land to build the road.
  — This number of acres is 3 times bigger than the biggest de minimis ever granted anywhere in the country.

– Plans for the road require 11 lanes of traffic in the interchange they propose to build.

– The entire Park is protected by Section 4(f), not just “recreational areas”. But, TDOT’s planners have attempted to claim that only the recreational areas are protected. The 4(f) law makes no such distinction.

– TDOT’s public notice of their September 24, 2013 Public Meeting was published with 2 different times, thus confusing the public.

– TDOT’s public notice of this same public meeting had an incorrect map of the planned location for the road, thus further confusing the public, and never documenting the size of the interchange, the number of acres to be taken, or the environmental issues of the correct location.

Planners’ Forecast of Traffic Too High by 42%

Planners have said that traffic near the park and around the region is growing, and as a result, they have forecast that traffic would be growing near Shelby Farms Park.  Those doing the plans for Shelby Farms Parkway published their forecast 2007 Oct 17 in the DSEIS (“Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement”), and 2012 Feb 02 in the SFEIS (“Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement”), (SFEIS body and SFEIS Appendices).

But, their forecast was high by 42%.  … You may ask, “How can you already say their forecast was too high?”  The answer is that the SFEIS document they published in 2012 included a “forecast” for 2010, which was already history, and their “forecasted” volume was higher than the actual by 42%.  We don’t even know how high their forecast for 2020 or 2030 or 2040 would be.  But, one can only imagine.  Here are the details of their over-forecast for 2010:

Estimate = 56,202 (Avg Daily Traffic)
Actual = 39,472
Error = 16,730
Pct Error = 42.4%

Traffic Near the Park Has Not Grown Since 2004

The following table and graph show that traffic near Shelby Farms Park have not increased since 2004. In fact, six of ten locations have traffic declines and only two have increases. The numbers are from the Tennessee Dept of Transportation (TDOT) website (

Location Increase  + / –
Walnut Grove, by Agricenter 0.8% 0
Humphreys Blvd, at Kirby -18.0%
Humphreys Blvd, S of W.G. -9.6%
Macon Rd, E of Sycamore View 8.2% +
Whitten Rd, N of Mullins Stn 43.8% ++ (flat since 2006
Raleigh-Lagrange, by Dog Park -3.9%
Sycamore View, S of Macon -19.3%
Mullins Station, N of Farm Rd -13.7%
Macon Rd, N of Dog Park -12.4%
Mullins Station, at Greenline -0.5% 0


Shelby Farms Parkway NOT Needed

In all the planning and all the discussion about Shelby Farms Parkway, it has never been proven that the road is needed. Further,there is very good evidence that the road is not needed.

– Trends in traffic near the park have been flat for 10 years (details in an upcoming post).

– The planning document (SFEIS- “Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement”) has a forecast for future traffic which is high by 42% (details in an upcoming post).

– There is simpler, less expensive alternatives which can handle future traffic with much less impact to the park and the environment.  This alternative has never been considered. This blog has previously described that alternative.

Environmental Issues NOT Properly Addressed in Public & Advisory Team Meetings

Although some individuals have claimed that the project did address all important environmental issues, it is clear from the written documentation and the timeline below that this is not true. The minutes from every CSS Team meeting are available from TDOT (

2005 Feb 10- CSS Team “Partnering Meeting”- Members said “We want Environmental Issues Addressed“. (Note- the “CSS Team” is officially called the “Shelby Farms Parkway Advisory Team”.)

2005 Mar 24- Public Meeting- Project history, CSS process, critical issues, project goals; no environmental issues were highlighted

2005 Apr 28- CSS Team Mtg 1- Environmental Issues NOT Addressed

2005 Aug 18- CSS Team Mtg 2- Environmental Issues NOT Addressed

2005 Oct 06- CSS Team Mtg 3- Environmental Issues NOT Addressed

2005 Nov 15- Public Meeting- Alternatives L & M were presented, NO Environmental

2006 Jan 11- CSS Team Mtg 4- Environmental Issues NOT Addressed

2006 Feb 16- CSS Team Mtg 5- Final Recommendations- Environmental Issues NOT Addressed

2007 Dec 17- Public Hearing- The ONLY Environmental Issues addressed were- “Displacement of 5 residences, impacts to streams, … conversion of wetlands,… and temporary impacts- dust and noise, and inconvenience…” There was NO MENTION of leaching from landfill, breaches in aquifer, crossing the floodplain, nor diverting run-off into the Wolf River.

2007 Oct 17- DSEIS- ONLY Air, Noise, Wetlands, Floodplain; NO MENTION of leaching from landfill, breaches in aquifer, run-off into Wolf River

2012 Feb 02- SFEIS-  FIRST mention of “Leaching Landfill, Aquifer Breaches, Run-off into Wolf River”.  There should be no new issues coming up at this point. These issues were not presented to nor discussed with the public at any other document or meeting.

2013 Sep 24- Public Hearing- ONLY addressed “Greenline Trail, Greenline Trail Connector, and Wolf River Greenway Trail Connector”. Still did not inform public of key environmental issues.