V&E Greenline

V&E Greenline: Volunteers Make Rails-to-Trails Project Possible

“If this means so much to you then why don’t you get involved”?

“Okay, I will” 

The 5-second interaction that changed the trajectory of the V&E Greenline. 

When Josh First, Volunteer Volunteer Coordinator (that’s not a typo – he volunteers as their volunteer coordinator) for the V&E Greenline first got involved, he was seeking solutions to problems he saw himself. He moved to the Vollintine Evergreen area in 2012 and attended his first VECA (Vollintine Evergreen Community Association) Annual Meeting in 2013. He was interested. He reached out and heard nothing back. (Problem #1) Once he found the right contact, Josh attended his first ArtWalk – the V&E Greenline Annual Fundraiser – in 2014 where there was no vegetarian option for food. (Problem #2) He made a comment which elicited the response, “If this means so much to you then why don’t you get involved?” (Solution) So he did.

Josh now serves as the volunteer coordinator for the V&E Greenline, the 1.7 mile gravel trail running through Midtown that features pedestrian bridges, art installations, flower gardens, and an arboretum. The trail starts near Crosstown Concourse where it passes the famous Big Kids sculptures, goes by their bright yellow Stationhouse, over Lick Creek, and under canopies of trees before concluding at Springdale Street. 

All photos courtesy of V&E Greenline

The trail started as a part of the national railroad network before becoming a local commuter line. It then served as a freight line connecting the Sears Building – that we now know as Crosstown Concourse — to another facility. The line sat vacant from when Sears closed until 1995 when VECA, thanks to a grant from the Plough Foundation, purchased the space. Their acquisition came filled with years of vacancy-fueled litter, debris, kudzu overgrowth, and junk. After hundreds of hours, years of weekends, and volunteers from throughout the city and community, the Greenline was recovered and became re-usable to the public. In the two decades that followed, the trail expanded to its full length, the bridges were added, and the Stationhouse was constructed, with volunteers as the cornerstone of it all.  

“The fact that there is a trail there is because of volunteers. The fact that there is still a trail there is because of volunteers.”

– Josh First

The Greenline creates an organic neighborhood network. It allows neighbors a space to be outside: to bike, run, walk, play, and get places by way of gravel. It connects and represents the vibrant and diverse Vollintine Evergreen area. It’s a space that bridges its own community and brings others in to experience what has been patiently and painstakingly invested in. It’s a reminder of the power of volunteers, the necessity of urban greenspaces, and the beautiful intersection of the two. 

If you use the Greenline, consider getting involved. One of the greatest ways to show appreciation for a space you use is to ensure others get to use that space, too. If you appreciate community greenspaces and neighborhood trails, if you are interested in environmental consciousness, or if you have a special skill you can contribute, the V&E Greenline needs you. Volunteers are vital to the greenline’s existence, maintenance, and preservation. Just like you can choose how to enjoy the trail, you can choose how to support the V&E Greenline. We encourage you to take the first step, whatever it may be, today. 

How to get involved:

  • Visit
  • Stay connected
  • Volunteer
    • Join the V&E Greenline page on Volunteer Odyssey for events like their monthly Second Saturday, Earth Day celebration, annual ArtWalk, and more.
    • Become a regular volunteer (for tasks like mowing) .
    • Volunteer for one of their skills-based opportunities including grant-writing, engineering consultant, city institution liaison, or other important tasks. 
  • Donate
    • The V&E Greenline is funded and supported entirely by donations from community members. Keeping 1.7 miles of trail clean, safe, and beautiful for our community comes at a price and they must raise every dollar needed each year. Donate today. 

Dannon Thornton is the Director of Community Engagement at Volunteer Odyssey. She graduated from the University of Memphis where she spent lots of time falling in love with the city through volunteering. You can contact her at dannon@volunteerodyssey.com.

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