River Road Designated Scenic Byway

TN's section of the Great River Road has been recognized as a National Scenic Byway. The designation acknowledges the significance of our area's archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic assets and the benefit of preserving them to foster tourism and economic development.

The Great River Road runs 2,069 miles along the Mississippi River through ten states from Michigan to Louisiana. 185 miles are in TN. The TN route follows U.S. 51 north out of Memphis, then TN 181, TN 79, and TN 78 to Kentucky. With the designation comes an $80,000 federal grant to mark and market the route through five West TN counties.

America's Byways was created in 1991 by Congress to recognize, preserve, and enhance selected U. S. roads. The Great River Road is one of 151 distinctive roads designated by the US Secretary of Transportation. The announcement was made by the Federal Highway Administration and TN Dept.of Transportation Oct. 16, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Click HERE for Great River Road overview.
Click HERE for Commercial Appeal article.
Click HERE for MS River Corridor - TN.

Overton Park Attracts National Help

Overton Park has just been added to the Cultural Landscape Foundation's Landslide Program. The program was established in 2002 to raise awareness of threatened, culturally significant, public landscapes across the country. Overton Park was one of 16 sites selected for Landslide 2009 from a field of nearly 100 sites nationwide.

Click HERE for information.
Click HERE for Citizens to Preserve Overton Park website.

FfOR Wins Clearwater Award!

Since 1987, the Waterfront Center of Washington, DC, in an annual juried competition, has recognized excellence in waterfront projects, plans, citizen organizations, and student work - those that show sensitivity to the water, public spaces, unique historic and cultural features, human scale, civic pride, economic sustainability, and environmental values. Friends for Our Riverfront was extremely honored to receive the 2009 Clearwater Award given to citizen organizations that embrace these values for their waterfront.

FfOR secretary Renee Lartigue and president Virginia McLean accepted the prestigious international award on behalf of FfOR Friday, Oct. 23 at the annual Waterfront Center conference, held this year in Seattle.

Click HERE for CA editorial.
Click "read more" below for info. about Waterfront Center and other 2009 winners.
Read more »

Floating Restaurant - Memphis an Innovative Leader

Self-service grocery stores, overnight package delivery, and a national chain of quality motels all put Memphis on the map as a place for innovation. So did ideas for a floating hotel and the floating restaurant, Sunset Cafe, at the foot of the Cobblestone Landing.

In the 1980s, you could walk down the cobblestones, sit on a floating restaurant, eat a hamburger, and drink a beer any day or night of the week. Memphis was even thinking about adding a floating hotel. Click “read more” to see what’s happened.
Read more »


FfOR's position and recommendations

Keep the Landing Open - This Place Matters

FfOR supports restoration, maintenance, and increased public use of the Cobblestone Landing as a vibrant, active, working dock. It is both the city's historic and current riverboat landing and one of our most significant landmarks. Its cultural significance and location in the center of the riverfront make it a key component in downtown's revitalization and an important asset for recreation, commerce, and historic tourism.

The current proposal to use riprap and a bulkhead capped with a sidewalk to stabilize the landing will permanently close the site for boat use and leave the riverfront with a vast empty field of cobblestones in its center.

How should the landing be restored?

The answer may lie just across the harbor at the Mud Island River Park boat ramp. It copied the Cobblestone Landing, and the constant slope allows people and boats to reach the water at all water levels.

The original design of the Cobblestone Landing works. As the 2002 RDC Master Plan said, "The Cobblestones are amphibious in nature, part land, part water, and are the perfect form for boat landings given the river’s rising and falling tendency.”

Restoration of the Cobblestone Landing should:

• Get the goal right – Top Priority: Restore, Maintain, and Open it Up as a free navigable site for people to use and enjoy. Add other features only if we have extra money and they don’t have an adverse impact on the historic property.

• Follow the guidelines of the 1996 Preservation Plan. If there is a need for any change to its recommendations or the landing’s original design, involve specialists in historic preservation, archaeologists, river users, environmental experts, and the public.

• Repair drainage problems, discourage dredging close to the bank, plan for future maintenance.

• Brag about our authentic historic Cobblestone Landing. Nominate the site as a National Historic Landmark. “Today of all the great landings in the MS River basin, the Memphis landing is acknowledged to be the best preserved."

Read more:

  • The proposed project and the current situation

  • The 1996 Preservation Plan and recommendations

  • Cultural and historical significance of our Cobblestone Landing
  • Labels:

    Proposed Project/Current Situation

    Since 1996, the City has received $13M in State and Federal funds to restore the historic Cobblestone Landing - $7M approved by the State in 1996; $6M approved in subsequent years by the Federal government.

    Almost $4M of the money was spent to build a wall and sidewalk along Riverside Drive and steps from the sidewalk down to the landing.

    But the landing itself was not restored, repaired, or maintained and the wall has caused more problems and deterioration.

    The current proposed project will make some repairs and add utilities, sidewalks, and historic markers. Here's an illustration. Look carefully:

    Aerial view.


    Here's the river gauge that measures water levels. During the year, the water goes up and down about 50 feet:

    Here's the landing at high and low water:

    Here's approximately where the sidewalk will be. At 17 feet on the river gauge, it will be underwater at least half the year:

    Below the sidewalk, the project proposes to dredge the bank, alter the slope from gradual 1:6 to steeper 1:3 grade, and fill the area with riprap.

    People can't walk on riprap. Boats can't put-in or dock on riprap. This project shuts the landing down as a navigable site and creates a barrier between the land and water.

    It ignores all earlier plans for an active, vibrant Cobblestone Landing and eliminates the future potential for special use barges for things like restaurants, markets, or boat docks. It means no longer being able to board riverboat cruises here or skip rocks or any of the other things Memphians and visitors have long enjoyed on the Cobblestone Landing.

    Read more:

  • FfOR's position and recommendations

  • The 1996 Preservation Plan and recommendations

  • Cultural and historical significance of our Cobblestone Landing
  • Labels:

    1996 Preservation Plan and Recommendations

    Around 1983 the City stopped maintaining the landing, and in 1994 tore up a section of cobblestones without required permits. Stopped by the Corps of Engineers, the City entered into a Memorandum of Agreement that required Memphis to conduct a historical and archaeological assessment of the area and to create and implement a Preservation Plan for the landing.

    The 1996 Preservation Plan is the only plan for the landing prepared by qualified experts. It called the Cobblestone Landing “the best preserved” of all the great boat landings in the MS River basin and found it eligible to be nominated to become a National Historic Landmark.

    The Preservation Plan gives specific recommendations on how to restore the landing. The guidelines include:
    • Continue the gradual 1:6 slope down to the 0 water level,

    • Replace missing and damaged areas with limestone pavers laid in a bed of sand,

    • Restore the mooring rings, and

    • If needed, add a retaining system that does not create a hazard to navigation.

    Click HERE for the assessment and plan.

    Read more:

  • FfOR's position and recommendations

  • The proposed project and the current situation

  • Cultural and historical significance of our Cobblestone Landing
  • Cultural & Historical Significance of our Cobblestone Landing

    Memphis is recognized as a distribution center for the world, and it all began at the river. Native Americans used the land along the river as a port 1,000 years ago followed by the Spanish, French, British, and early Americans. When Memphis was laid out in 1819, the public landing was designed into the fabric of the city.

    The MS River Basin drains 40% of the US and serves as a water highway connecting inland America together and to the world. Goods, people, and ideas all traveled by river, first by canoe, then flatboat, and later by steamboat.

    Starting in 1859, the Memphis public landing was paved with cobblestones quarried in seven states and laid by skilled Irish and German immigrants. It was a technological advance that ennabled the port to operate even in the muddiest times and Memphis to out-pace rival ports and become the cotton and hardwood lumber capital of the world. Even without proper maintenance, its design has withstood the test of time, and its permeable surface is environmentally sound today.

    The landing’s cultural significance is symbolized by a riverboat and appears on the City seal, flag, and even on downtown drain covers. It is the legendary place that James Hyter sang about in “Ole Man River” and where Davy Crockett left TN headed for the Alamo. It has been in continuous operation for 150 years and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Read more:

  • FfOR's position and recommendations

  • The proposed project and the current situation

  • The 1996 Preservation Plan and recommendations
  • Labels:

    "Romancing the Stones" - Memphis's Stormy Relationship with our Cobblestone Landing

    Oct. 18, 2009 (Sunday)
    3 pm
    Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (3030 Poplar)

    The Cobblestone Landing has been in continuous use for 150 years and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The landing has been neglected, and there is money available for its restoration. The proposed design is controversial; in fact it will shut-down the landing for future boat use.

    Come get the facts and share your ideas. Co-sponsored by Public Issues Forum and Friends for Our Riverfront.

    Note: The 1984 romantic action adventure, "Romancing the Stone" starred Michel Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The treasure was an emerald - valuable, historic, and worth fighting for. For fun, click "read more" below to see a trailer.
    Read more »

    On the River

    A "friend" enjoyed the articles on paddlers and birds travelling the Mississippi River and sent these two photographs.

    The boater needs no introduction.

    The water skiers are Mrs. Scott Dodds and Mrs. Jane Coll who water skied 244-miles on the Mississippi River, from Cairo, IL to Memphis, in 1955

    World Record Swim Down the Mississippi

    In 2002 marathon swimmer Martin Strel swam the entire length of the Mississippi River, 2,360 miles, in 68 days. It was a Guinness World Record.

    Click twice on image to watch video.

    Focus Shifts from Big New Projects to "work with what you have"

    With the economic downturn, Projects for Public Spaces (PPS) reports that worldwide cities are refocusing - abandoning the notion that expensive projects lead to great places.
    There is no doubt that the world has changed fundamentally since the collapse of the global economy last year. We are heartened to see that out of the dust has emerged a new mantra of "less is more" and "work with what you have." -- PPS Newsletter

    Sounds like good advice for Memphis. In fact it's the advice the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) recommended in their 2007 "Report on the Memphis Riverfront."

    Click HERE for PPS "Report on the Memphis Riverfront."

    Final Meetings Leave Mud Island's Future "muddy"

    The question asked: What do you want to do at Mud Island River Park?
    The item with the highest consensus of multi-age public interest, enthusiasm, and support was unquestionably a skatepark.

    At the 3rd public meeting, we were shown 3 color-coded land use/zoning maps without specific details and told the final decisions were in the hands of the RDC who will work with the architects on a plan to present to City Council.

    What will that plan be? Will there be a skatepark at Mud Island River Park?

    A comment to Mary Cashiola's article on the meetings for the Flyer may best sum up the public mood:
    (Fade in)
    RDC: We want public input at this meeting.
    PUBLIC: Most of us want a skatepark.
    RDC: Okay, we'll go with restaurants.
    (Fade out)

    Here's the original RDC plan for Mud Island River Park.

    Click "read more" below to see the 3 land use maps.
    Read more »

    Time to get realistic about projects on our Riverfront?

    Click twice to watch video.

    What seemed like a good idea, has hit hard times. Or was it a bad idea from the get-go? - Xanadu, the once highly touted, still unfinished, $2B shopping and entertainment complex in N.J.

    The Brian Lehrer radio show discusses Xanadu in more detail and looks at whether public-private real estate deals are a good deal for the public.
    Click HERE for the 14-minute radio broadcast.