Text By Katie Breyer
It’s a breezy day as you walk through wooded trails, enjoying a peaceful retreat from the hustle of a noisy city. Or maybe you’ve come to bike, play disc golf, ride a horse or even zip line. From adventurous to observer, it doesn’t matter what your desired level of activity is as long as you enjoy being outdoors. We’re talking about Shelby Farms, and if you live in the Mid South you’ve probably been there. If you haven’t, it’s time you discovered 45,346 square feet of natural wonder, full of activities for all ages.
Many remember the park being in the news years ago when its existence was threatened by commercial development. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and now Shelby Farms makes headlines with its long list of improvements. The Shelby Farms Conservancy continues to add attractions within and around, always striving to improve the urban oasis. Everything they do is focused around preserving, enhancing and causing as little harm to the ecosystem of the area as possible.
Three elements of the park’s extensive master plan have already rolled out: the Greenline, the Wolf River Pedestrian Bridge and the Woodland Discovery Playground. The Shelby Farms Greenline connects various neighborhoods to green space, encouraging and making it easy for people to get active, and The Wolf River Bridge connects Shelby Farms to the Wolf River trails. The new playground is quite impressive, putting an innovative, relatively urban twist to common amenities.
If you’ve cut through the park via Farm Road recently, you’ve probably noticed that the lake and buffalo are absent. While the buffalo are safe and shaded in another area of the park, Patriot Lake is undergoing major expansion as part of the“Heart of the Park” initiative, now in the second of four phases.
“Upon robust public engagement, the common thread that kept being presented is the love for our landscape. More amenities, such as restrooms and a facility to purchase food and other necessities, were requested…but to add these without tainting the landscape,” says Cameron Mann, Shelby Farms’ development manager.
Patriot Lake already had a parking pad and was a common gathering area, so the decision to expand there was a suitable and minimally damaging one. The plan calls for increasing the lake’s size significantly. At nearly 80 acres, the larger Patriot Lake will be a “gathering place for health and recreation, relaxation and big water adventure.” The project is progressing quickly. Park visitors this fall will notice more landscaping around the northwest part of the new lake, as well as the steel frame for the new visitor center and the foundation for a lakeside restaurant building.
The park is alive and well in the midst of its renovations. Familiar amenities blend with new offerings to provide fun for all ages.
The Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course
A bold addition to Shelby Farms, completed this spring, allows guests to swing from tree tops, complete obstacles, and zip line through the trees. Plan an adventure here in September or October, before the course closes for the winter season.
Biking, walking and jogging are much more enjoyable in the fall when you’re not drenched in sticky summertime sweat. If you don’t own a bike, you can rent one at the corner of Farm Road and Mullins Station. Something go awry during your ride? Utilize the new bike repair stations that were added along the path. The Greenline will stretch more than 11 miles once the recently announced Cordova extension is completed next year.
The Outback Dog Park
Man’s best friend can join in on the fun at The Outback. Acres of open spaces, two lakes and off-leash trails provide plenty of socialization for dogs and their owners.
Players have been majorly impressed with this 18-hole course. If you don’t have your own discs, you can purchase some and get free score sheets with a map of the course from The Boathouse.
The management running the stables does a fantastic job of keeping Shelby Farms’ horses healthy and happy. Now that the extreme heat is behind us, the horses are ready to get out and guide you into the sunset. Check their website, http://shelbyfarmsstables.com/, for ride times and reserve ahead.
In addition to providing area residents free access to one of the nation’s largest urban parks, Shelby Farms’ staff plans special events regularly with something going on almost every week.
Zombie 5K, October 3
Greenline Half Marathon, October 11
Spooky Nights, every Friday & Saturday in October
Zombie Laser Tag
Headless Horseman Hayrides
Nocturnal Nature Hikes (great for children)
These and many other activities contribute to Shelby Farms’ glowing reviews. The park has been described as “an outdoor paradise,” “the greatest place in Memphis” and “possibly the best thing to ever happen in the city.” Visit shelbyfarmspark.org to learn more and plan your outdoorsy get-away, sure to deliver lots of smiles.