Tennessee State Park Unveils New Trail Made of Illegally Dumped Tires

A new trail at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tennessee is made from tires illegally dumped around the park.
A new trail at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tennessee is made from recycled rubber from tires illegally dumped around the park. tennesseestateparks / Instagram

Every day, innovative and creative communities are coming up with ways to make use of pollution. The latest example? A new 2.5-mile-long walking and biking trail in a Tennessee state park that is made of old tires.

The trail, located at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, is one of the longest trails made of recycled rubber in the U.S. It consists of rubber crumbs derived from tires that were illegally dumped around the state park. Volunteers and local contractors began collecting the tires for this project in 2019. Then, the tires were broken down into “crumbs” of rubber by Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol, Tennessee.

“This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material then converting it into positive use,” David Salyers, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), said in a statement. “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.”

Workers and 450 registered volunteers collected over 24,000 tires of all types, including tires from passenger, commercial and heavy equipment vehicles. In just one day, more than 10,000 tires were collected. The new rubber trail replaced worn paths from a former golf course, and the refreshed trail as well as new connections have created a loop around the park.

According to Joseph Galbato, III, interim commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), the department spends over $19 million per year to pick up litter and illegally dumped items. “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,” Galbato said.

Tennessee’s new state park trail is one of the longest made up of rubber tire crumbs, but many other states are looking at this material for walking and biking trails. Kentucky’s Department of Waste Management recently welcomed applications for projects that utilize rubber crumbs. In April, Alabama unveiled new roads and parking areas at Lake Guntersville State Park made up of recycled tires. A recycled rubber walking trail at Obregon Park in east Los Angeles, California was installed back in 2014 for locals to enjoy.

“We’re pleased to see discarded tires recycled to improve T.O. Fuller State Park,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said. “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.”

A section of trail at T.O. Fuller State Park in 2013. Thomas R Machnitzki / CC BY 3.0

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