Editorial: Curtain rising on river show

On June 28, 2010, in News 2010, by Mark Norris

Land purchases will give more people a chance to see the Mississippi like they’ve not seen it before.

Commercial Appeal
July 28, 2010

Gazing out over the Mississippi River from the edge of a towering bluff is an experience that Tennesseans should be able to enjoy more often.

That’s changing as the result of a bipartisan move in the General Assembly to restore the money this year for a land-acquisition program funded by a real estate transfer tax.

Budget problems had diverted the money to the state’s general fund for several years, but support from two powerful Memphis-area state senators reversed that course in the Senate Finance Committee last spring. A total of $16.5 million was added to the current year’s budget.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis and Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville don’t always see eye-to-eye, but in this case they persuaded colleagues to dedicate funds to land acquisition instead of sending the money elsewhere this time.

And the real estate transfer tax was prevented from fading into the sunset.

The site to be acquired with that money and other sources is along the Mississippi River in the Randolph community, a former river port rich in history with rarely seen views from what is known as Chickasaw Bluff No. 2.

The site is about 35 miles upstream from Downtown Memphis in western Tipton County.

A 19-acre tract has already been acquired by the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, which plans to acquire up to 1,000 acres altogether. Foundation acquisitions will become part of a 10-state Mississippi River greenway system.

Under terms of the controversial state land acquisition program — a program with serious implications for the future of Tennessee’s environmental health that has stirred up some controversy, especially among agricultural interests — no land will be taken through the exercise of the state’s right of eminent domain. Fair market prices are being paid to willing sellers.

And as a result Memphians will be able to go on a short drive upriver and access walking trails to some of the most spectacular scenery West Tennessee has to offer.

History lessons can be built around the site, where the French explorer La Salle constructed a fort and a Civil War Confederate boot camp and induction center once stood.

The place will be a valuable asset for the people of West Tennessee, improving the quality of life in the region for generations to come.

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