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Park accessibility to increase with new sidewalk on Poplar Ave.

Artist rendering of new Poplar Avenue sidewalk and historic bus shelter (Amanda McGillvery)

If you’ve walked, biked, or maneuvered a wheelchair along Poplar Ave. through Overton Park, you know it can be a tough place to get around.

With the addition of a new sidewalk along Poplar, plus the eventual creation of a small entrance plaza at the park’s Cooper Street bicycle and pedestrian entrance, the park will soon become safer and more accessible.

These projects follow the recommendations of the 2015 Mid-South Regional Greenprint & Sustainability Plan, which identified Overton Park as a regional hub for bikes and pedestrians.

The new sidewalk will stretch from the Veterans Plaza Drive park entrance west to the entrance at Tucker Street. Funded by a federal public transit grant administered by MATA, the sidewalk is a City of Memphis project designed to make it safer and easier to access the two bus stops located on Poplar between Veterans Plaza Drive and Tucker, and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The addition of the sidewalks will also prompt drivers to turn more slowly from Poplar into the park in order to address safety concerns at this busy intersection.

Sidewalk construction is likely to begin in 2019.

As a separate project, the future entrance plaza at Cooper Street will likely have a small landing area for bikes and pedestrians crossing into the park. This feature would be subtle enough not to interfere with views into the park. A new path would run through this landing area, connecting it to the nearby park entrance at Veterans Plaza Drive. Currently, visitors entering at this location must traverse the golf course to pick up a road or trail in the park.

“Anyone who has ever tried to enter Overton Park by foot or on a bicycle knows firsthand how uncomfortable or even harrowing such a seemingly simple act can be,” says Nicholas Oyler, Bikeway & Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Memphis. “Great urban parks provide safe and easy access to all people, no matter how they get around. Through these projects, Overton Park continues to grow more accessible for more Memphians.”

The Cooper St. entrance project is funded through a federal transportation grant administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and is managed by the City of Memphis. Funds for the Cooper Street entrance were generously matched by the First Tennessee Foundation through a donation to Overton Park Conservancy. The project has cleared National Environmental Policy Act review and can now proceed to the design phase, with construction likely to begin either late 2019 or early 2020.