Waterfront Center Report on Mud Island

In 1999, the City hired the Waterfront Center from Washington, DC to gather public comments about the riverfront. Click below to see the suggestions for Mud Island.

Excerpts from the WATERFRONT CENTER REPORT 1999

There was a general feeling that this park should be a family-oriented place and needs a number of improvements to make it more viable to the Memphis riverfront and the community.

Summary of Yellow Group:

• Removal of the entrance fee and keeping the park open year-round were unanimous sentiments. Memphians go once if at all. If the entrance fee was removed more locals might go and use it, especially if pedestrian and vehicular access were improved. Several suggestions including providing a parking area/garage on the island were put forward.
• More activities for children should be provided, including more opportunities for environmental education. Perhaps an ecology center tied into the school curricula that could also serve as a summer camp could be installed.
• Overall, the facility needs a general upgrade and enhancement along with improved maintenance.
• Tied to this is better asset management with the cautionary note of not expanding until the present facility is running optimally.
• To improve access, the group would like to test the possibility of running the trolley out to Mud Island. It was noted that this could also serve the growing residential communities on the island.

Blue Group:

Two immediate needs to facilitate greater use of Mud Island Park are the addition of more docking facilities for recreational boats and provision of a ferry service shuttling passengers from the mainland. The ferry idea generated considerable positive discussion.

The group advocated free admission to the island and the provision of more opportunities both for access and enjoyment once there. It was the position of the group that opening Mud Island freely to visitors (not to the museum/Mississippi River model) would encourage people to buy food, drink and concession items and that the revenues from these vendors would contribute to the island’s enhancement. The addition of amenities to Mud Island, that would serve both a visitor population and the residents were recommended. Suggested additions include: Programming the amphitheater with popular music and dance, using re-enactment groups for festivals, bike rentals, volley ball tournaments, environmental education, and generally, more interactive opportunities for young people and families.

Overall, the group saw a need for a public relations campaign on behalf of Mud Island, to refurbish its image in the community. In a related area, the group said an emphasis on security was going to be needed to encourage greater use.

In order to encourage a comprehensive river experience, the group called for a link of the south end of Mud Island to the mainland, near Beale Street. Such a pedestrian link would help overcome now what is seen to be a psychological inhibition for Memphians to use Mud Island.

Red Group:

The group was clear in its desire to open up the island to residents and to make admission free. Charging admission to the museum and Mississippi River model was fine. There was solid opposition to the idea that $8 be charged to get on the island (including museum entry).

Again the suggestion was put forward that there be a link from Beale Street to Mud Island, namely a pedestrian bridge.

A hands-on educational program was a suggested addition to the island's offerings. Plus a reconstituted children's playground. Also, the addition of a boat launch (see above).

Additional restaurants were recommended, and a lift of the current ban on concessionaires. It was suggested that the museum itself be updated and that it have changing exhibits so that locals would have reason to make repeat visits. The consensus was that the museum currently is somewhat static as far as Memphis residents are concerned.

Suggested additional facilities on Mud Island ranged from a Ferris wheel to an aquarium, without achieving general consensus.

The employment of local artists, both performing and visual, in enlivening the island did win broad group support. The issue of perhaps renaming the island was again raised, with opposition encountered, but a general re-imaging was seen as needed.

Other suggestions included: extending the monorail and/or extending the riverfront trolley line; expanding the Memphis Belle exhibit to a larger World War II display; adding more parking to the north end, and providing affordable housing on Mud Island.