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A trail made entirely out of discarded tires has opened at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tenn.

On Friday, Tennessee State Parks, the Department of Transportation and local leaders gathered to cut the ribbon on the Tires to Trails project.

The 2.5-mile-long walking and biking path is one of the longest rubber-bearing trails in the U.S. It surpasses even Yellowstone’s rubber path to Old Faithful, which spans about 1.2 miles, according to Yellowstone Gate.

Local contractors and volunteers collected more than 24,000 tires that had been illegally dumped in the area from passenger, commercial truck and heavy equipment vehicles.

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In an interview with Fox News Digital, T.O. Fuller State Park manager and ranger Jimmy Warren revealed how the project first came to life — and how leaders had the intention of putting discarded tires to good use.

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, Tenn., on June 3, 2022. (Tennessee State Parks)

“A lot of tires were being accumulated and were causing problems, such as [from] mosquitoes [and] rodents,” he said. 

“So basically the idea of the Tires to Trails initiative came in line with the cleanup and utilizing those tires.” He added that the group wanted to turn the old tires “into something that was good,” rather than have them accumulate and be something “negative.”  

Some 450 registered volunteers helped collect as many as 10,000 tires in one day, a press release from the Department of the Environment and Conservation (TDEC) indicated. 

The new trail forms a modern loop design, replacing worn cart paths from an old golf course.

Patriot Tire Recycling, based in Bristol, Tenn., diced up the tires into bits; it’s the only facility in the state with the ability to perform this kind of work.

Workers then used those bits to construct the trail. 

The new walking and biking trail made out of discarded and recycled tires at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tenn. (Tennessee State Parks)

The new walking and biking trail made out of discarded and recycled tires at T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tenn. (Tennessee State Parks)

The new trail forms a modern loop design, replacing worn cart paths from an old golf course.

Warren, a Memphis Police Department retiree, explained that the soft trail is easy on the knees and offers a more inclusive walking experience.

A great deal of interest has come from new visitors outside the immediate community. 

It also offers hilly areas for bikers and scenic views along the way. 

The public so far has been “very interested” in visiting the new addition, he said.

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“They’re very enthralled with it,” he said. 

The park had about 81,000 visitors in May 2022, said Warren. He added that after the trail’s opening, a great deal of interest came from new visitors outside the immediate community. 

The T.O. Fuller State Park entrance and signage in Memphis, Tenn. (Tennessee State Parks) The trail offers "a nice little walk through our nature area."

The T.O. Fuller State Park entrance and signage in Memphis, Tenn. (Tennessee State Parks) The trail offers “a nice little walk through our nature area.”

“We’re anticipating a lot more because of the addition of the trail,” he said. “It’s a nice little walk through our nature area.”

The park manager stressed the importance of allowing recycling to “serve a better purpose” — and hopes other parks, both state and nationwide, will adopt similar initiatives.

“It would be a win-win situation … not just for state parks, but also city parks.”

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The project first took off in 2019 and was funded by a $200,000 special litter grant from TDOT, a $250,000 Tire Environmental Act Program grant and a $280,000 Federal Highway-Recreational Trails Program grant. Those last two grants both came from TDEC divisions.

A landscape view of T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tenn. (Tennessee State Parks)

A landscape view of T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis, Tenn. (Tennessee State Parks)

“This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material, then converting it into positive use,” TDEC commissioner David Salyers said in a statement. 

“It’s exactly the kind of responsible environmental activity [that] Tennesseans can be proud of, where an area can be cleaned up, then … people [can] enjoy the benefits in a new way.”

TDOT interim commissioner Joseph Galbato indicated that the Tennessee Department of Transportation spends more than $19 million per year collecting litter and educating the public on the dangers of dumping.

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T.O. Fuller State Park was the first to open for Black Americans east of the Mississippi River with facilities constructed in 1938.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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