Scenic view in Shelby Farms park (2005)
|Area||4,500 acres (18 km2)|
|Operated by||Shelby Farms Park Conservancy|
|Status||Open all year from dawn to dusk|
Shelby Farms, located in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. At a size of 4,500 acres (18 km2), it covers more than five times the area of Central Park in New York City with 843 acres (3.41 km2).
Lakes, natural forests, and wetlands provide natural habitats for many smaller species close to an urban metropolitan area. Wildlife can be observed in their natural environment from the many trails in the park. Shelby Farms park is home to a bison herd.
The land that forms Shelby Farms park was derived from property that had been privately owned in the 19th century. In 1825, humanist reformer Frances Wright founded the Nashoba Commune on parts of what is modern day Shelby Farms. The purpose of the commune was to emancipate slaves by providing education in practical and cultural skills. Remains of a settlement from the late 19th century are still present in the modern day park.
From 1929 until 1964 Shelby Farms was used as a penal farm associated with the Shelby County jail.
Shelby Farms was opened for recreational purposes in the 1970s. In 2007, a public and private non-profit partnership was established to provide for the daily operation of the park and to plan for its future use.
In 2008, a masterplan was put in place for the redesign of the park. The re-design would provide additional hiking and biking trails as well as more opportunities for boating in a much enlarged Patriot Lake.
Wildlife including beavers, deer, turtles, and different species of birds can be observed in their natural environment. Although the park is surrounded by routes used by commuter traffic, smaller species can still find habitats large enough to survive.
Shelby Farms park is home to a bison herd on 56 acres (230,000 m2) of pasture land. Former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris was instrumental, along with park superintendent Tom Hill, in introducing the bison, which now number about 45.
 19th century
In 1825, Frances Wright's Nashoba Experiment was formed on parts of what is modern day Shelby Farms park. On 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of woodland, humanist reformer Frances Wright, an opponent of slavery, founded a multi-racial commune of slaves, free blacks and whites to prepare slaves and former slaves for their future freedom. Wright believed in the emancipation of slaves by providing education for them in practical and cultural skills.
Remains of an early settlement from the late 19th century can be found at the eastern tip of Shelby Farms park, consisting of ruins of a residential building, a disintegrated barn, car wrecks dating from the 1950s and 1960s, old fences and a family burial site.
In 2005, the family burial site of the Mann family exists with just one grave marker remaining. The last two documented deaths, as indicated on that remaining gravestone, date back to November 25, 1891 for Robert W Mann and December 5, 1891 for Mary S Mann. Five or more graves are marked only by their base stones.
Shelby County acquired 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of land in 1928 for use as a penal farm. How and when the remaining formerly private property of 2,900 acres (12 km2) was incorporated into what is now Shelby Farms park is unknown.
 Penal farm
From 1929 until 1964 Shelby Farms was used as a penal farm, in which the prisoners of the Shelby County Corrections Center were involved in agricultural labor to provide food for inmates and staff, or to sell overproduction for profit on behalf of the state of Tennessee.
Parts of Shelby Farms are still used as a semi penal farm. Some inmates of the Shelby County Corrections Center as well as individuals sentenced to community service are required to do yard work to keep Shelby Farms fields in shape or to pick up litter on nearby streets.
 Since the 1970s
In the 1970s the Shelby County Commission opened the area for recreational purposes.
The Shelby Farms Park Alliance (SFPA) was granted a conservation easement by the Shelby County Commission in December 2006. The easement restricts commercial and residential development in the park area for 50 years.
In 2007, an agreement was signed between the Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton and the SFPA, forming the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (SFPC), a public and private non-profit partnership established by Shelby County government to help provide day-to-day operations of the park and to develop a planning process for the future of Shelby Farms park.
A masterplan was put in place in 2008 to direct a major re-design of the park. An extension of Patriot Lake is planned to accommodate for more boating and surfing activities and to extend the paved trail around the lake. Additional hiking and biking trails are proposed and 1,000,000 new trees are planned to be planted to make Shelby Farms a park of the 21st century.
Hiking and biking trails meandering through the park allow visitors to observe wildlife and nature. On two lakes rowing boats are allowed. On one of latter two lakes, Patriot Lake, pedal boats can be rented. There is a 1.67 miles (2.7 km) paved trail around Patriot Lake. Another paved trail, the 2.75 miles (4.4 km) long Chickasaw Trail, is available to hikers. An unpaved trail, the Tour de Wolf, takes hikers and bikers through the woods of Shelby Farms Park for 6.08 miles (9.8 km). The paved trails are suitable for walking, running, biking, and roller-blading. The Tour de Wolf is suitable for walking, running, and mountain-biking. Off-leash dog activities are designated in a 120-acre (49-ha) area that includes meadows, lakes and hiking trails.
Shelby Farms Greenline is a 6.5 mile long multi-use urban trail running from Shelby Farms to Tillman Street in the Binghampton neighborhood, near Midtown, Memphis. Shelby Farms Greenline is managed and operated by Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that also manages Shelby Farms Park. The Greenline opened in October 2010. Shelby Farms Greenline is the longest, continuous urban trail in the Memphis area. It is also the first trail in Tennessee to use a pedestrian hybrid beacon at two major crossings: Highland and Graham.
Horseback riding is allowed in parts of the park and on a few trails. Horses can be rented as well. A designated runway to start and land miniature radio control aircraft is present in the park for public use.
 See also
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Shelby Farms|
- Shelby Farms Park Info
- The Trust for Public Land: The 150 Largest City Parks
- Tom Charlier Oh, give me a home ... where new buffalo roam at Shelby Farms to improve bloodline Commercial Appeal, February 1, 2009 (Accessed October 27, 2009)
- http://www.shelbyfarmspark.org/sfpc/view-master-plan SFPC Master Plan
- http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/tn/shelby/cemeteries/mann.txt - RootsWeb
- http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2007/Nov/22/calvin-anderson-an-opportunity-to-be-heard-on/ Commercial Appeal, Memphis
- http://www.sfparkalliance.org/the-history-of-shelby-farms-park/ Shelby Farms Park Alliance (SFPA) conservation effort
- http://www.memphisbioworks.org/newsroom_article_2007_0110_CA.php MemphisBioworks.org Article
- http://www.sfparkalliance.org/2007/07/ Management agreement between SFPA and Shelby County
- http://www.shelbyfarmspark.org/ Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (SFPC)
- http://www.memphisdiscgolf.com/cms/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=2&Itemid=28 Disk golf in Shelby Farms Park