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Happy Trails To You: Tennessee State Park’s Sustainable Paths

T.O. Fuller State Park Features Trails Comprised Of Used Tires   

Tennessee’s T.O. Fuller State Park features a walking and biking trail made from rubber crumbs from dumped tires. In June 2022, officials from Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and local leaders revealed that the two-and-a-half mile trail near Memphis is made of transformed pieces of more than 24,000 dumped tires in the area. It is one of the longest rubber-bearing trails in the United States.

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

Photo Courtesy Department of Environment & Conservation

The project, which began with collection in 2019, was funded by nearly $1 million in grants from the Tire Environmental Act Program, a litter grant from the TDOT, and a Federal Highway-Recreational Trails Program grant of $280,000 from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Recreation Resources.

The tires were illegally dumped in the area around the park, gathered by volunteers, and then Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol transformed them into crumbs. The tire pick-up was a successful community effort, with more than 450 volunteers working hard, picking up as many as 10,000 tires in one day alone.

Photo Courtesy Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

The aptly named Volunteer State’s reduce and recycle approach to state parks is not only helping the environment, but it also brings positive benefits to its guests.

The trail at T.O. Fuller replaced old and worn cart paths from a previous golf course, adding connections and modernizing the outdoor space. T.O. Fuller State Park is important historically, as it is the first state park built for African Americans east of the Mississippi River.

“Litter and illegal dumping are costly and damaging to Tennessee. TDOT spends more than $19 million annually picking up litter and educating the public about the negative impacts,” explained TDOT’s former interim commissioner, Joseph Galbato. “We are thankful for collaborative partnerships like this ‘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.”

Photo Courtesy Public Works Los Angeles County

Tennessee is not the only state turning trash into trails. Turning tires in paths is happening all across the nation. Neighboring Kentucky’s Department of Waste Management is welcoming applications for projects that utilize rubber crumbs. In 2022, Alabama unveiled roads and parking areas at Lake Guntersville State Park made of recycled tires. Across the country

in East Los Angeles, Obregon Park features a recycled rubber walking trail.
“We’re pleased to see discarded tires recycled to improve T.O. Fuller State Park,” Lee Harris, Shelby County mayor, said in a statement. “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.”

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