Tennessee State Parks Unveil Trail at T.O. Fuller State Park Made From Tires Collected
Officials from Tennessee State Parks, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), and local leaders today cut the ribbon on a new hard-surface walking and biking trail over 2.5 miles long – made from rubber crumbs derived from tires – at T.O. Fuller State Park. It is one of the longest rubber-bearing trails in the U.S.
The tires had been illegally dumped in the area around the park, gathered by volunteers and local contractors, then transformed into crumbs by Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol, the only facility in the state with the ability to recycle tires in such a way. Once the tires were recycled into crumbs, the material was brought back to the park for construction of the trail. The crumbs are between one-quarter inch and three-eighths inch in size.
The project, which began with collection in 2019, was funded by a Tire Environmental Act Program grant of $250,000 from TDEC’s Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices, a special litter grant of $200,000 from TDOT, and a Federal Highway-Recreational Trails Program grant of $280,000 from TDEC’s Division of Recreation Resources.
“This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material then converting it into positive use,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC. “It’s exactly the kind of responsible environmental activity Tennesseans can be proud of, where an area can be cleaned up then have people enjoy the benefits in a new way.”
“Litter and illegal dumping are costly and damaging to Tennessee. TDOT spends more than $19 million annually picking up litter and educating the public about the negative impacts,” said TDOT Interim Commissioner Joseph Galbato, III. “We are thankful for collaborative partnerships like the ‘Tires to Trails’ project which not only addresses the litter problem but turns it into a meaningful and positive long-lasting resource for the community.”
“We’re pleased to see discarded tires recycled to improve T.O. Fuller State Park,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “The new trail is a great example of collaboration with our federal, state and city partners to invest in our shared environment and a treasured community asset.”
The trail largely replaces worn cart paths from an old golf course, with new connections making for a modern loop trail design.
Workers cleaned up over 24,000 dumped tires, including passenger, commercial truck and heavy equipment tires. The cleanup had 450 registered volunteers and saw 10,000 tires collected in one day. The project was a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), TDOT, the City of Memphis, Shelby County and Memphis City Beautiful.
T.O. Fuller State Park was the first state park open for African Americans east of the Mississippi River. A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp initiated construction of the park facilities in 1938. It was designated Shelby County Negro State Park in 1938 and was changed to T.O. Fuller State Park in 1942 in honor of Dr. Thomas O. Fuller, a prominent African-American educator, pastor, politician, civic leader, and author.