Tires Transformed Into a New Hiking Trail!

Locals put discarded tires to good use around a historic park.

Jul 12, 2022
Tires Transformed Into a New Hiking Trail! | Locals put discarded tires to good use around a historic park.

T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tennessee has been loved for generations and has always been a ground where community has come first. Back in 1938, for instance, it was the first park east of the Mississippi river to open for African American visitors, according to TN State Parks. Over 80 years later, the park is continuing its forward-thinking tradition, this time, through a pioneering sustainability project. 

A new walking and biking trail has been built through this historic park. Running at 2.5 miles long, it’s among the longest trails made of rubber in the US, said EcoWatch. And the best part? The new trail in T.O. Fuller State Park is made entirely of recycled tires.

Preventing harmful pollution 
Illegally dumped tires are not only an eyesore, but they’re a dangerous addition to the environment. Rubber, like plastic, is a material that won’t naturally decompose. A report by National Geographic explained how tires contain high levels of chemicals like zinc and chlorine that are harmful to the environment if they aren’t burned in a special facility. 

In a place as hot as Tennessee, these dumped tires often begin to melt and release these harmful gasses into the air. Fortunately, as TN State Parks explained, the old tires were sent to Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol, TN, the only facility in the area that can break down tires in an environmentally sound way. There, the collected tires were safely broken down into the crumble rubber that was eventually used to pave the new trail.

Cleaning up the dump site together
TN State Parks explained how the trail’s construction, which has been in development since 2019, was a collaborative effort. Officials from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the City of Memphis, Shelby County, and Memphis City Beautiful were all involved in funding this trailblazing recycling project. These officials named their initiative the ‘Tires to Trails’ project.

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Workers from these departments, alongside some 450 volunteers, came together to collect over 24,000 tires that had been illegally dumped in the area around the park to be recycled

Coming full circle
Fox News reported on the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new trail, which opened to the public on June 3, 2022. Jimmy Warren, the manager of T.O Fuller State Park, told Fox News that the trail has received positive feedback from members inside and outside of the immediate community. Warren stressed how the new trail, which replaced uneven paths from an old golf course, is flatter and easier on the knees than the previous trail, and that it was more accessible and inclusive than what came before. 

"This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material, then converting it into positive use," Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner David Salyers said in a statement to TN State Parks. "It’s exactly the kind of responsible environmental activity [that] Tennesseans can be proud of, where an area can be cleaned up, then … people [can] enjoy the benefits in a new way,” Salyers continued. The Tires to Trails initiative is an excellent example of how recycling and waste reduction can bring a community together. T.O Fuller State Park has once again prioritized making nature accessible to everyone.

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Rachael is a writer, poet, and editor who is fascinated by identity and empowerment. She enjoys romanticizing the mundane, reading in coffee shops, and hiking by moonlight.