Conservation has been a primary focus since the inception of The Memphis Garden Club (MGC) in 1921. Largely through the efforts of our club, Meeman-Shelby Forest became a state park. In 1937, MGC received a GCA Founders Fund Award for the wildflower trail that we planted in the new park. In 1997, MGC gave the seed money for landscaping the Information Center at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. In 1999, we revisited the park to restore the wildflower trail. Americorp, the park rangers and our junior group, The Sprouts, formed an alliance to protect and conserve the natural beauty of the park.
In 1972, our club received a gift of 21-acres along the Wolf River. The land, called “Riverwoods,” was designated a State Natural Area by the State of Tennessee in 1977. Approval of our original plan to turn this land into a nature center was denied by the City of Germantown because of their plan to build a parkway through the land. After negotiations with Germantown, spearheaded for seven years by MGC member and past president, Jeanne Arthur, a resolution to this issue was finally agreed upon in 2005. MGC gave approval for Germantown to build the road. In return, the city agreed to modify the road as a four-lane parkway to be designed by Audubon International. The Farmington Group (Boyle Investment, Mrs. Lloyd Lovitt, and Germantown Development) donated acreage allowing MGC, with state permission, to reconfigure Riverwoods State Natural Area. Germantown placed the abandoned northern section in a greenway, agreed to add other acres to the greenway in the future. They also purchased and donated to our club 40-acres north of the Wolf River. Walnut Grove LTD donated an adjoining 277-acres, creating a 318-acre parcel which MGC gave to the Wolf River Conservancy in 2006. These 318-acres will be protected by a conservation easement held by Ducks Unlimited. Riverwoods will be given to the State of Tennessee and will be jointly managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Germantown. These transactions include about 450-acres, gifts to our club are valued at approximately $3 million dollars.
In 2015, Weed Wrangle® was birthed by The Garden Club of Nashville to slow and/or eliminate invasive plants across our state. The project, which was sanctioned by Garden Club of America under Partners for Plants program, is supported by the Knoxville Garden Club, Garden Club of Lookout Mountain, Memphis Garden Club, The Little Garden Club. In 2017, Tennessee State Parks and Division of Natural Areas announced their partnership with Weed Wrangle.® The state said they “look forward to encouraging many parks and natural areas to partake in the fight against invasive species in the spring.” CLICK to see a full description of the native plants in Riverwoods. It provides the botanic and common name, growth size, sun, blooming schedule, etc. Wolf River Boulevard: A Native Plant Guide
Each year Memphis Garden Club joins the Wolf River Conservancy in its annual tree planting day at Shelby Farms Park. This is part of an ongoing plan to plant more than 1,000,000 trees in Memphis.
Representatives of Memphis Garden Club attend the annual conference of the Conservation, National Affairs and Legislation (CON/NAL) Committees of GCA in Washington, D.C. Environmental and conservation issues are presented, as well as an update on legislation pertaining to these issues. Time is set aside to lobby congressional representatives on legislation important GCA’s mission to “restore, improve and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs and action in the fields of conservation and civic improvement.” CON/NAL supports a wide variety of national conservation organizations. It has also provided funds to Tennessee that enable public school teachers to serve as delegates to the University of Tennessee Conservation Workshops and provided public and private school children (4th and 6th graders) with GCA conservation packets. Our club is encouraged to act locally and to think globally.