Sometimes, it is easy to miss evolution when there isn’t a revolution. Such is the case of Memphis’ outdoor amenities.

While our riverfront development at Tom Lee Park might, to some, seem like a revolution, it actually is a part of a continuing and necessary evolution of our footprint.

Outdoor assets here in Memphis weren’t developed overnight, but over time. They have steadily and unmistakably created one of the most impressive, connected outdoor networks in our region, adding value to both locals and visitors.

This Memphis evolution has spanned from north to south and east to west, even to Arkansas. From the Greenline to the Hampline to the River Line, from the Mighty Mississippi to the Wolf River to Hyde Lake at Shelby Farms, the growing footprint of pathways, bike lanes and connections across our city limits is astounding.

Opportunities to walk, run, bike and explore Memphis are endless: whether standing above the rushing waters of the Mississippi River on the Big River Crossing or absorbing unparalleled views and vistas along the Wolf River Greenway; grabbing an Explore Bike Share bike for a leisurely ride through Overton Park or on the 7-mile paved Big River Trail loop in West Memphis’ flood plains; traversing the 70 miles of Arkansas levee trails; or launching a kayak from River Garden to docking at Mud Island for a photo at the MEMPHIS sign.

These experiences aren’t accidents. They’re the products of a movement taking place among philanthropic foundations, private companies, motivated individuals and government agencies, who are working together to strategically create infrastructure and amenities that invite the public to experience our city from a new perspective.

To ensure that all of our communities can be more connected to one another. To create pathways that, when we pass people by foot or by bike, allow us to acknowledge them in a more genuine way that is not based on race, age, gender or religion but rather on a shared sense of community. To build assets that are free and open to all no matter where you come from, what you look like, how you spend your time, or where you want to go. To remind us that we’re closer than we think, both as a community and as individuals.

The evolution is not merely in developing these assets. The evolution is taking place within ourselves as we work to recognize the need for these networks and stop taking for granted the power of our connection with our environment.

We typically tell potential visitors that you have to “experience” Memphis to understand its culture. Similarly, we must feel these experiences to believe in them as well. Get your feet wet, literally, by renting a kayak from River Garden or attending a stand-up paddleboard yoga class on Hyde Lake at Shelby Farms.

You have an open invitation to step outside, abandon past perspectives, see what Memphis has accomplished, and be an active contributor and beneficiary of this powerful evolution.

Jon Dowdle