Tennessee State Parks wins national award for Tires to Trails program

TO Fuller
Tennessee officials, including Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers and T.O. Fuller State Park Manager Jimmy Warren, gathered at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for T.O. Fuller State Park's new tire trail in Memphis

Tennessee State Parks have been honored with the Project Excellence Award from the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals for the parks’ innovative Tires to Trails program, which recycles tires. The award was presented this month at the National Outdoor Recreation Conference in Knoxville.

“This is a wonderful recognition of an outstanding program,” said David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). “We have seen great success with Tires to Trails, and the award is a tribute to all who have worked to make it successful.” 

The award is presented annually to exemplary outdoor recreation projects and collaborating agencies and organizations who were key to the success. Selection criteria include unique or special circumstances; problem-solving; level of innovation and creativity; impact or effect of a project; and collaborative team effort.

Tennessee State Parks officials, along with those from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), cut the ribbon in June on a new hard-surface pathway over 2.5 miles long – made from rubber crumbs derived from tires – at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis. The path is one of the longest rubber-bearing trails in the United States. The project was a partnership between TDEC, TDOT, the City of Memphis, Shelby County, and Memphis City Beautiful.

Tires that had been illegally dumped in the area around the park were gathered by volunteers and local contractors, then transformed into crumbs by Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol, the only facility in the state with the ability to recycle tires in such a way. Once the tires were recycled into crumbs, the material was taken back to the park for construction of the trail.

Workers cleaned up over 24,000 dumped tires, including passenger, commercial truck, and heavy equipment tires. The cleanup had 450 registered volunteers and saw 10,000 tires collected in one day. The project, which began with collection in 2019, was funded by a Tire Environmental Act Program grant of $250,000 from TDEC’s Office of Policy and Sustainable Practices, a special litter grant of $200,000 from TDOT, and a Federal Highway-Recreational Trails Program grant of $280,000 from TDEC’s Division of Recreation Resources.