Regional One Health is excited to play a role in the redevelopment of Tom Lee Park, a project that will create a gathering spot for our community.
Our Regional One Health River Trail will span the length of the park and is designed for walkers, joggers, cyclists and other recreational users.
We are proud to provide another option for healthy outdoor recreation and to participate in a project that will highlight Memphis’ iconic riverfront.
A major redesign of Tom Lee Park will redefine the Memphis riverfront by adding active and passive gathering spaces, public art, immersive civic and ecological experiences and more.
Regional One Health is excited to be part of the project, which is scheduled to be completed in spring of 2023, by sponsoring the Regional One Health River Trail. The scenic trail will serve as the park’s main promenade and walking path.
“Regional One Health is committed to improving health and wellness in our community – and that doesn’t stop at offering exceptional medical care,” said President and CEO Reginald Coopwood, MD. “The new Tom Lee Park will improve quality of life for all Memphians. The multipurpose trail is a great opportunity for healthy outdoor recreation.”
The Regional One Health River Trail is a roughly 1-mile urban trail that will stretch the full length of the park from north to south. It will accommodate walkers, joggers, cyclists and other recreational users.
The trail will provide a pleasant, visually interesting place for outdoor fitness and recreation.
It will weave through four zones that are being designed in Tom Lee Park: a Civic Gateway to welcome visitors from downtown, an Active Core with diverse recreational opportunities, a Community Batture with meditative paths and intimate gathering spaces, and Habitat Terraces that allow visitors to experience a sustainable natural landscape.
The Regional One Health River Trail will also take users near the river’s scenic edge, which will be a thriving shoreline that attracts pollinators and changes colors with each season.
“Perfect for meeting up with a personal trainer, walking with friends or partaking in a solo sweat session, the Regional One Health River Trail is designed to keep people moving,” project planners say. “Distance markers and program signage help visitors keep pace, route a workout and offer quick tips to improve motion, performance and expedite recovery.”
The trail also serves as a means of reaching park’s other major features, as it interacts with the other amenities being designed with a vision creating a gathering spot where people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, etc. can build relationships and connect with local ecology and history.
Jeanne Gang, the founder of Studio Gang architecture and urban design firm; and Kate Orff, founding principal of SCAPE landscape architecture and urban design firm, said the goal is to revitalize the riverfront by encouraging exploration and capturing the energy of the perpetual motion of the Mississippi River.
“Anytime you’re able to intervene in a linear segment of riverfront it’s a generational chance to do it differently,” Orff noted. “We’re bringing in the notion of a living river and using ecology as infrastructure, rather than things that cut people off from the river.”
“We want people to connect to the environment and connect to each other,” Gang added. “The exciting part for me is how people will engage with each other and the space and the river.”
The park will include sunny lawns with river views for active use and play, as well as landscaped areas to enhance the urban canopy. There are plans for a river-inspired playground, zipline, climbing feature, food and beverage areas, picnic area, interactive water feature, and a sunset lounge. Pavilions will accommodate small-scale parties, speaking events, concerts, etc.
Artist Theaster Gates is creating a major public art installation, made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project. The installation will honor Tom Lee – an African American river worker who saved 32 passengers on a sinking steamboat in 1925 – while serving as an iconic place to gather, much like other large scale public artworks including “The Bean” in Chicago’s lakefront Millennium Park.
Gates said his research on Tom Lee and the history of Memphis has led him to focus on finding ways for his art to inspire dialog: “I want to get people to talk to each other; to create a place of gathering and relationship-building,” he said.
As the park takes shape, organizers are excited to help build a thriving future for the Memphis riverfront. Through it all, they say, the star of the show is the Mississippi River itself. As Brad Howe, a senior associate at SCAPE, noted, “The dynamism of river and the fact that it is constantly changing was an inspiration for the team. It informed how the park took shape.”