One of the twenty largest urban parks in the United States is Shelby Farms, located in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee. At 4,500 acres (1,800 ha), it occupies more than five times the area of New York City’s Central Park, with 843 acres (341 ha).
Natural habitats for many smaller species close to urban metropolitan areas are created by lakes, natural forests, and wetlands. From the many trails in the park, wildlife can be seen in its natural habitat. The park at Shelby Farms is home to a bison herd.
The land that forms the park of Shelby Farms was extracted from property that in the 19th century was privately owned. On 670 (of its total 1,940) acres north of Wolf River, which are now part of Shelby Farms Park and Agricenter Internationals, the humanist reformer Frances Wright created the Nashoba Commune in 1825. The aim of the commune was to provide practical and cultural skills education in order to emancipate slaves after their expenses had been worked out. In the modern-day park, traces of a settlement from the late 19th century are still present.
Shelby Farms was used from 1929 to 1964 as a penal farm operated by the government of Shelby County.
In the 1970s, Shelby Farms was opened for recreation purposes. A public and private non-profit alliance was set up in 2007 to ensure the day-to-day management of the park and to prepare for its potential use.
A masterplan for the renovation of the park was put in place in 2008. In a much expanded Patriot Lake, the redesign will include new hiking and biking trails as well as more opportunities for boating.
In its natural habitat, animals, including beavers, deer, turtles, and numerous bird species, can be observed. Smaller species will still find environments large enough to thrive, even though the park is surrounded by roads used by commuting traffic.
On 56 acres (23 ha) of pasture land, Shelby Farms park is home to a bison herd. Together with Park Superintendent Tom Hill, former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris was instrumental in the adoption of the bison, which is now about 45.
In 1825, on 670 acres of modern-day Shelby Farms Park north of Wolf River, Frances Wright’s Nashoba Experiment was formed, with the remainder in today’s Germantown, Tennessee, south of Wolf River. Humanist reformer Frances Wright, a foe of slavery, created a multi-racial group of slaves, free blacks and whites on 1,940 acres (790 ha) of woodland to train slaves and former slaves for their eventual liberation. Wright believed in the freedom of slaves by offering practical and cultural skills education for them.
At the eastern tip of Shelby Farms Park, the remnants of an early settlement from the late 19th century can be found, consisting of the ruins of a residential house, a disintegrated barn, car wrecks from the 1950s and 1960s, old fences and a family burial site.
With just one grave marker remaining in 2005, the family burial place of the Mann family remains. As shown on the remaining gravestone, the last two known deaths date back to Robert W. Mann on November 25, 1891 and Mary S. Mann on December 5, 1891. Just their base stones mark five or more graves.
In 1928, for use as a penal farm, Shelby County purchased 1,600 acres (650 ha ) of land. Between then and December 1940, when the Shelby County Commission approved the purchase of the final 1,383 acres (560 ha), the remaining formerly private land of 2,900 acres (1,200 ha) was incorporated into the Penal Farm, taking the total to 4,450 acres (1,800 ha).
Memphis, Tennessee, is home to some gorgeous green, open spaces and parks for you to lose yourself in. Check out these others you shouldn’t miss:
- Memphis Park
- Peabody Park
- Greenbelt Park
- Tom Lee Park
- Overton Park
- Martyrs Park
- Heroes Park
- Nesbit Park – Stanky Creek Trails
These amazing parks are located just down the street from our location at South Third Street across from The Southgate Shopping Center. Stop by for a visit anytime!