Mud Island residents frustrated about proposed Greenbelt Park dock

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 10:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - If you build it, they will come. For some residents on Mud Island, that could be a real problem.

The City of Memphis wants to expand the boat dock in Greenbelt Park on the north side of the island to accommodate more riverboats. This would be good for tourism, but neighbors worry it will be bad for their quiet little community.

Beale Street Landing, where riverboats that stop in the Bluff City are supposed to dock, is too small to handle the increased number of riverboat companies that want to make Memphis a stop on their Mississippi River itineraries.

The landing is also in need of repairs right now. Viking Cruises, which just launched a Memphis service, is also encouraging the city to create more dock space.

During a public meeting with city leaders Monday night, Mud Island residents said opening up a commercial dock to increased activity could create headaches for those who live on the island.

While the meeting was going on inside the Cannon Center, riverboat workers from the American Symphony were at the north end dock, running fire hoses up the ramp, over the grassy hill, and to a fire hydrant in order to resupply the freshwater onboard the boat. 

The American Cruise Line vessel was forced to dock by Greenbelt Park on Monday because the Beale Street Landing dock is closed due to how shallow the river has gotten.

”The water level is really affecting docking,” riverboat worker Lewis Thompson said. “It takes longer for the gangway to get down, and sometimes, it might be hard to actually get to the place.”

Right now, riverboats have to tie up on the trees and position the boat’s gangway on the concrete ramp. It’s not easy for the workers, and it’s less than desirable for passengers to disembark this way.

While employees hustled to resupply the boat, Mud Island residents got their first look at the city’s $6.5 million plan to turn the existing dock into a modern facility with amenities for riverboat passengers and for those who use Greenbelt Park. 

Many homeowners were upset the meeting wasn’t better publicized.

“This is a last-minute thing. This is really important,” said Shawn Danko, owner of the Kooky Canuck restaurant. Danko represents 10 Downtown homeowners’ associations (HOAs).

“There are 1,643 households on Mud Island, and people are trying to scramble to get to this meeting,” he said.

The primary concern mentioned: increased traffic as a result of tour buses moving passengers to and from the riverboats. 

The main road on Mud Island is a two-lane, heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists as they cross to the walking paths along the river.

”There’s three crosswalks that are already hard to get people to stop for,” Todd Dudley said. “To add more buses, potentially, is really troubling.”

City officials assured community members nothing is set in stone yet.

”We’re going to be listening. We haven’t started anything,” said Robert Knecht, director of public works. “There’s no construction. We haven’t bid anything. So, we perceive starting in the next three months.”

Both Memphians and riverboat workers are now waiting on a dock plan that won’t leave them high and dry.

”I realize tourism is good,” said Mud Island resident Myron Graves. “They need a place to put the boats. More conversation and talking to the folks it affects is probably the way to go, though.”

The city says more community meetings will be held with stakeholders.

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