With public support, new features could enhance Big River Crossing

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Since its opening, the Big River Crossing bridge connecting Memphis to Arkansas has become a popular stop for runners and people just trying to relax.

If one organization has its way and gets help from the public, the area on the Memphis side of the bridge will be getting a face-lift that adults and their little ones can both use to unwind and cool down.

The Church of the River, located at the start of the bridge in Memphis, wants to remodel its playground next to the Big River Crossing gates and install facilities that would make Big River Crossing more family-friendly.

“We’ve got the land and the desire to be a good neighbor and to open the playground, what we don’t have is the resources,” Rod Starns with the Church of the River said.

Starns said he’s noticed more bikers, runners and families in the area since Big River Crossing opened. But he also noticed those visitors did not have anywhere to get water, relax in the shade or let their kids play freely and safely.

A conceptual rendering created by Church of the River member Kate Haygood of brg3s architects shows how a portion of the playground might ultimately look. The items seen in the rendering are only rough concepts and not final designs.

“For families with kids, it’s like they really want to have another place to do something other than just walk,” Starns said. “This would sort of be the icing on the cake for the Big River Crossing.”

The church wants to update the playground facilities for children, install a water fountain and add shaded areas. To do that, they need help.

They launched a fundraiser to make the money needed to the initial upgrades — about $20,000. But thanks to a City of Memphis program, the City will match every dollar donated to the fundraiser by the public.

Once initial upgrades are made, more funds will have to be raised to finish all the proposed upgrades.

The playground would be open at all times the Big River Crossing is open and while the church members are not using it.

“We can really envision this as being a place where now parents, families, bikers and runners will really want to come because … they’ll have another amenity to enjoy,” Starns said.

Allyson Harris knows firsthand how many people are looking for water and shade after getting off the big bridge over the big river. She works for MemPops, which has a stand at the Memphis entrance to the bridge.

“A lot of people spend their days here, and a lot of people ask for water all the time and shady places to sit down, so I think it would be a really good addition to this place,” Harris said.

She agreed that an updated playground would bring more people to the area because it offers more to do.

Once funding is secured for the playground, Starns said the church would immediately get to work on the first phase of renovations, which includes shaded areas and a water fountain.

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