Monday, March 12, 2012

Zoo fees

The park has been in the news a lot recently. Yesterday's surprise (to me) Sunday banner headline in the Commercial Appeal was a story taking the zoo to task for having fees that are too high. This doesn't affect my world too often, but it is awfully high to take a family unless you go often enough to get the annual pass.

The worst thing, from my point of view, is that not only does the zoo park on the Greensward at will, but they're allowed to keep the $5 fee per car for their general fund instead of giving that money back to the park. Above is a satellite photo of the Greensward last season, and even from that height, you can see the damage that the parking does. Any fees coming in from parking on the park should go to the park, and not to the zoo.

Hopefully the Conservancy will figure out a way to get them a garage soon. Hopefully they will also get an easement passed to protect the green spaces of the park and ensure that the zoo won't come back in 10 years and say that the parking garage is full and that they now need to park on the Greensward again. The zoo doesn't want to spend their own money on a garage, in spite of taking over so much park money through the years. Before we hand over a garage to the zoo, a permanent, legal contract (ideally protecting the rest of the green spaces of the park as well) needs to be in place banning them from ever using the Greensward as parking again. The zoo has said that they're in favor of such an easement and has been working with Park Friends on drafts for years now, and I hope the Conservancy will put their weight behind it as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mowing the Grass

This week's Memphis Flyer has an article saying that the city parks department (sadly, no longer even its own department, in a recent and telling move by the mayor's office) will only be mowing parks every 32 days this coming summer. That's just less than once a month. People will be wading through calf-high grass for much of the summer in city parks. It looks like the Conservancy and its private grounds-keeping crew got here just in time (in spite of a little over-zealous leaf-blowing on occasion). We're lucky the park will look tended and be pleasant to walk through all summer.

Unfortunately, park maintenance is always the first thing cut when the budget gets tight, both locally and nationally.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Port-a-Potty in Lick Creek

view this morning looking down from the stone bridge at hole 2 over Lick Creek

This blog has been moribund for quite a while -- some pressing park issues kept me busy for all the time I could spare from working on my own career. However, today when former Park Friends board member (and current Overton Park Conservancy board member) Melanie White flagged me down to tell me that a port-a-potty was wedged under a bridge on the golf course, the photo op was too great a temptation. So I'll start trying to post some park news here again.

The port-a-potty washed into the creek from down in the golf course maintenance area. We periodically lose trash cans too close to the creek during flash floods, and yesterday's rain was a doozy. Several trees were down right around the bridge as well, so it hung up right under one of the old WPA stone bridges (the one between holes 2 and 3 of the golf course).

For the record, all that trash didn't originate in the park. Every time it rains hard, trash from upstream in Overton Square and other areas washes down the storm drains and ends up in the park.
Above is Lick Creek backed up because of the debris. Below, you can see that city parks crew was out there working on the problem first thing this morning. Department of Park Services continues to do great work in the park, even though the conservancy has taken over some responsibilities. I'm perpetually grateful to Larry Franks and his crew at DPS for all the time and attention they've given Overton Park over the years. They have a limited budget but are out there doing all they can whenever they're needed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Security Alert

We've had several sightings this week of a tall, African-American man in his thirties wearing a red shirt. He's been following women alone in the park. He drifted after me on my walk Tuesday, but I was out in the public area, put on a spurt of speed, and got over into the zone with the MCA security guard, and he walked off in another direction. However, Thursday someone answering to that same description actively ran after a runner who was alone on the main running trail around the Old Forest (in the wooded section). She made it safely to the fire station, with the help of a passer by. I've heard of at least one more instance this week where someone of this description was watching/following women in the park.

Please keep your eyes open, your cell phone with you, and stay out in the public areas of the park if you are by yourself. Take a big dog with you if you can. Thursday we had 50 golfers play the course, now that it's open full time again. Hopefully this increased traffic in the park will provide security for everyone.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What we've been up to

For those of you (like me) who have had a flat out crazy spring and haven't had a chance to renew your membership yet. Here's why you should.

Dear Friends,

We at Park Friends miss you. We really appreciate your past support. In updating our membership roster we notice that you have not yet renewed your membership. This letter is to encourage you to do so.

Over the past year, the Park Friends board, members and volunteers have been working on the following things to benefit Overton Park and citizens living in its proximity:

---Park Friends aligned with other midtown groups in the Lick Creek Storm Water Coalition to find solutions for and to support the construction of a parking garage at Overton Square with water detention at that site. This site would greatly increase the effectiveness of the Lick Creek drainage and reduce the flooding experienced by people living in the Lick Creek basin.

---Park Friends Board President Martha Kelly and other board members have been part of the development of a Conservancy spearheaded by George Cates and Gary Shorb that we hope will bring considerable financial resources and renewed vigor to Overton Park.

---Park Friends hired an engineer to develop a plan to get the running trail in shape, and committed funds towards that. We have been awaiting approval by the Parks Department;

---Park Friends is actively working to obtain an easement for the entire park, which is needed to protect all of Overton Park, and which will complement the State Nature Area designation awarded to the Old Forest;

---Park Friends continues to maintain signage and fight kudzu in the Old Forest;

---Park Friends has facilitated several park clean ups, and held its annual Christmas party;

---Park Friends has kept our informational kiosks, situated at two key park entrances, stocked with maps and schedules;

---Park Friends volunteers again spearheaded the Junior Open Golf Tournament.

Please send us your membership contribution, and an extra contribution if you can. Enclosed is an envelope for your convenience.

Most importantly, please come volunteer with us! Overton Park is our city's treasure.


Martha Kelly

President, Park Friends Board of Directors

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Madison Ave. bike lane letter

Here's my letter to Mayor Wharton and Councilman Strickland. Sadly, protected bike lanes on Madison are in jeopardy because of a few vocal opponents. Please let your voice be heard if you'd like a safe way to bike in midtown and link up to Overton Park and the future Greenway that will be linking to the park. We need all the safety and connectivity we can get.

Dear Mayor Wharton and Councilman Strickland,

I'm distressed to hear that a few vocal opponents of bike lanes on Madison may ruin the project for the overwhelming number of both businesses and individuals who want it. I understand that we only have one chance to do this with federal funds, as we do routine repaving.

The Greenway has been a run-away hit, but it would be lovely to have protected, safe places to bicycle in the heart of the city as well. I dream of doing my grocery shopping by bicycle instead of car, but I don't feel safe in Memphis traffic. With a grocery coming to Overton Square (and building that parking garage with flood control is another piece of revitalizing a desperately needy Madison Ave.), I could live that dream. These bike lanes will also be a great connector with the Greenline and Overton Park once we get lanes on Cooper as well. Connectivity is the key to getting people safely around the city and improving both air and life quality in Memphis.

Simply putting up "Share the road" signs does nothing to protect cyclists. Please give us a few safe ways to get through the heart of the city. We're at a turning point for reinventing Memphis for pedestrians and cyclists and digging ourselves out of the bottom of every national quality-of-life and healthy living list. Please take this important step to keep moving in the right direction.

Bicycle lanes in no way are comparable to the disruption of the trolley (the main argument of opponents). There is not enough traffic on Madison to be halving numbers of cars simply because we're moving them over into one lane. In addition, as a car driver, I can tell you that adding the turn lane would be a huge plus for drivers.

Thank you both for moving us towards a more healthy city environment. Please continue to do so with bike lanes on Madison.

Sincerely, Martha Kelly

Thursday, April 7, 2011

letter to members

We're going to be sending out more regular updates about news in our parks to members, and here's the first one that just went out. We'd love to have you join Park Friends and receive these updates directly.


As a member of Park Friends, you will be receiving brief, regular updates sharing information and requesting your input on things of importance to Overton Park. This first one concerns the proposed Eggleston Archive that is considering the General Services area in Overton as one of its several possible sites.

Mark Crosby, who is heading up the Archive effort, asked to come and speak to our board. We listened with interest, but have taken no official position.

What is your opinion?

We've heard from some Park Friends members already, and welcome your input on this or any other issue regarding our great parks.

Martha Kelly
President, Park Friends