Thursday, December 17, 2009

Urban Green Spaces Improve Health

A recent Dutch study has concluded that people living within one kilometer of green space had improved health in 15 out of 24 conditions, even after researchers adjusted for other health factors. Respiratory and depression/anxiety disorders were particularly affected, suggesting that the physical factor of cleaner air and the emotional benefit of being near nature both contributed. The study looked at people within a 3 kilometer radius of parks, and the benefit was greatest for those withing 1 kilometer, which makes sense to me, because the thing I prize most about my neighborhood is that I'm only three blocks from Overton Park. However, anxiety symptoms, infectious diseases of the digestive system and medically unexplained symptoms were relieved even with green spaces that were farther from the home.

The healthy influence was greatest for children and least for the elderly, who as a group do not get out of their homes as easily as other demographics. Children were 21% less likely to suffer from depression if they lived near green areas.

Dr Jolanda Maas of the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, said: "It clearly shows that green spaces are not just a luxury but they relate directly to diseases and the way people feel in their living environments. Most of the diseases which are related to green spaces are diseases which are highly prevalent and costly to treat so policy makers need to realize that this is something they may be able to diminish with green spaces."

Memphis, near the bottom of the nation for city land devoted to parks, needs to treasure and maintain the parkland we have while looking for opportunities to expand it. I would also argue that we need to stop using the green spaces we do have as overflow parking lots, a sporadic problem at several parks and an ongoing problem in Overton Park with zoo parking on the one big meadow every nice weekend. Brian Carter from the zoo told Park Friends last night that the zoo is diligently seeking a solution that will replace the system of depriving Overton Park of its peaceful meadow during every beautiful weekend day of the year (and a good many other days besides). I hope they can come up with this solution quickly. This situation has gone on too long already and is only getting worse as the zoo's popularity builds.

Read more about this study here and here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Civic Welcome

CA photo by Mark Weber
I drove over to West Memphis Friday evening, coincidentally on the same day that the CA ran an article about the new gateway of light that welcomes visitors to their fair city. I noticed first the light making a beautiful and changing space underneath the Missouri Street overpass, and then I drove past a park with an abundant, creative array of holiday lights. It's the sort of display that both the zoo and Shelby Farms charge money to see, but in West Memphis, it's simply out for civic enjoyment. The whole effect was deeply welcoming.

This civic welcome mat put out by West Memphis reminded me of the delight I felt on arriving in St. Louis for the first time in years and seeing plantings, hanging baskets, beautifully manicured parks, and public art everywhere. If a city presents itself as beautiful, well kept, and creative to both visitors and its own citizens, people are far more likely to value the city and work to maintain it as beautiful, well kept, and creative. Frederick Law Olmstead understood this when he designed parks connected to parkways that stretched through the heart of a city, tying the city to beauty and vice versa.

Memphis has beautiful bones -- a parkway system of our own, lovely parks, great potential in areas like the fairgrounds and Overton Square, and a magnificent river. Let's work on our welcome mat. Let's beautify our city with well kept civic spaces, well manicured parks, and creative public art projects that all add up to make people want to live, work, and play in Memphis.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Overton Park Art

I've been doing a lot of landscapes in Overton Park lately, including my newest woodcut (above). It's the park nearest my home and one of my special places, and I walk and look and paint on a regular basis. My husband Elmore's work is also linked closely to the park. He picks up sections of fallen trees all around Midtown and makes windsor chairs, tables, bowls, and other things from them. He picks up occasional wood in the park and is also just inspired by the amazing array of hardwood that grows so richly in this region. The Old Forest is Memphis's finest example of our heritage in that regard.

Elmore and I will be having our Holiday Open House this weekend, Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 both days, at 1780 Autumn (the northwest corner of Autumn and Hawthorne). We'd love for you to drop in, see our latest park inspired work, and have cider and cookies with us. Come by and say hi!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cargill stepping up again

I keep seeing Cargill in the news lately doing wonderful, civic-minded sorts of things. The latest is that they're sponsoring a clean-up, along with Living Lands and Waters, of the Wolf River Harbor downtown this Saturday, Dec. 5th, 8am to noon. Bundle up and be ready to get in a john boat and clean up from the water. Since they're providing boats (and lunch!), they need to have a head count ahead of time, so call Matt McLeane at 634-3234 to volunteer. More information at Friends for our Riverfront's website.

Our waterfront definitely needs more tlc, esp. since the city and the the RDC have dragged their heels for years on putting up screens on the storm drains into the harbor. Every time it rains, all the litter on the streets is washed right into the river. We need to be more responsible about what we dump into the Mississippi. If Elmore and I weren't giving our open house this weekend, we'd be right down there in our kayaks to help out.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lick Creek Update

Mary Cashiola's article in the Flyer was a good overview, but I thought I'd add some photos and a little more detail about the two possible dams on the zoo end.

The main plan of widening the box culvert under Poplar and widening a couple of bridges just downstream of Poplar in the park (the golf course area) seems to be set, but all that widening lets in a lot more water at once, in order to relieve the flooding in Belleair Circle. The trouble at the zoo end is that all that water would smash into the zoo, which is already having flooding issues.

The original plan submitted by the engineers had a dam running along the fence between the zoo and its parking lot, beginning just to the right of the entrance plaza (photo above). There's already a fence here, and just a line of scrub hollies (photo below), so it makes sense as a place to put a wall, that would need to be five or so feet high.

However, the zoo has recently requested that the wall be pushed to the very fringe of their parking lot and run around the edge of the Greensward, either on top or just outside the line of maturing oaks that are growing there as a screen (photo below).
These oaks (below) that jut out into the line of the parking lot might be lost all together, even if the engineers save the ones inside the small fence around the existing culvert (above).
Pushing this concrete wall/dam to the edge of the Greensward moves the dam to lower ground, meaning that a textured concrete wall will rise to be 6-8 feet high in most places instead of the lower height that would be necessary where a fence already exists along the front of the zoo. It will be an intrusive visual barrier to those using the Greensward and may well destroy many of the trees around the edge of the Greensward, either through cutting them down or damage during construction or a higher amount of standing water around their roots.

The zoo wants to keep every square inch of its parking lot out of the flood plain, even though that small, far corner of its lot is in the flood plain under existing conditions, as are many roads and parking areas in other parts of Midtown. The zoo, unlike these other roads and lots, has daily parking attendants who could cone the area off on days when rain is predicted (and the entire lot is never needed on rainy days), and they also have a loudspeaker system that could announce possible flooding if heavy rains come and warn people to move their cars.

The Lick Creek Coalition, excepting only the zoo's representative, voted to urge the city to stay with its original plan. Since the zoo is benefitting from the flood control, they should be willing to have some small part of the necessary construction in their part of the park instead of pushing it all out to the Greensward and golf course. The zoo is looking at further options and will be meeting again this month with the neighborhood and park groups that comprise the Lick Creek Coalition to see if they can come up with a plan that doesn't intrude so strongly on the Greensward. We look forward to hearing their ideas.

Cargill Cotton Fixes Park Playgrounds

Photo by Mike Maple of the CA.

There's a great article in today's paper about the employees at Cargill teaming up to renovate playgrounds and three city parks. The park budget has been cut more severely than other city services, and it's beginning to show in the amount of maintenance and even just grass-cutting that the DPS is able to do with the money they get. Good for Cargill for stepping in to make a difference to city kids. Maybe some other companies with the resources and manpower can do park projects as well. I'm self employed, but if anyone works for these good citizen kind of companies, please suggest our parks as a worthy beneficiary of some volunteer resources.

Our parks and public spaces are one of the most visible ways Memphis shows how it values itself to visitors from elsewhere, including owners of companies who might be interested in moving here. If we don't value ourselves, how can we expect others to do so?

Monday, November 30, 2009

UrbanArt in Dalstrom Park

I got this from Elizabeth Alley: UrbanArt is hosting a dedication of the completion of the Dalstrom Park public art project
this Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 11am at Dalstrom Park (Shelby Drive & Weaver Road - Shelby Drive Entrance). The ceremony will take place at the Shelby Drive entrance of Dalstrom Park, at the trailhead to the right of the park. Both Mayor Wharton and Councilman Edmund Ford, Jr., will speak at the event.

Dalstrom Park's public art is a City of Memphis Percent-for-Art project and was a part of the Division of Park Services project to add amenities such as playgrounds, pavilions and picnic areas to Dalstrom Park. Local Artist Suzy Hendrix created artwork to both compliment and contrast the natural setting of the park.

For more information, contact UrbanArt's Elizabeth Alley at (901) 454-0474.

I haven't been out to Dalstrom Park, but I love that we're getting a few public art projects for our park system. Peabody Park's sculptures brighten my day every time I drive by, as does the funky spire in the roundabout on Mud Island. Memphis has been behind the curve on the percent-for-art program (Nashville has had art installations in its airport for years and years thanks to this program), but I'm pleased to see us getting on the bandwagon. Thanks to UrbanArt for all they do to beautify Memphis and combat the suburban, everywhere-is-the-same syndrome that happens all to often.

Mayor Wharton at Midtown Security Council

I just got an email from Peggy Williamson, chair of the Midtown Security Council, that Mayor Wharton will be speaking at their meeting Thursday evening. This meeting is open to the public, and they would like to have the neighborhood attend. You can find out more at

Speakers: Memphis Mayor AC Wharton
Memphis Police Col. Billy Garrett

Time: 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. refreshments
6 p.m. to 7 p.m. meeting

Place: HopeWorks at 1930 Union Ave.
Midtown Church of Christ basement
(enter at corner of Union and Tucker)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flyer Article about the Park

I've been out of town and haven't updated everyone on the recent developments, but Mary Cashiola has a great article in this week's Flyer. It's very hard to get people excited about storm water until they're either wearing waders in their homes or hear that their favorite park is about to be dug up, but Mary does a great job of making this issue relevant for everyone.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Levitt Shell Survey

The Shell has a survey out in advance of planning their 2010 season. Fill it out and let them know what you love, what you'd love to see, and who your favorite bands are.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meeting date changed

They changed the date of the fairgrounds meeting from this Thursday to Monday, Nov. 16th at 5:30, Young Ave. Deli. They'd apparently like to keep it small instead of having a big public forum, but since I announced it here already, I'll keep y'all up to date, and it is a meeting in a public place with one of our representatives.

Fairgrounds Meeting with Councilman Strickland

There's a public meeting with Councilman Jim Strickland about the fairground plans this Thursday, Nov. 12th at 5:30 pm at Young Ave. Deli. Alex Turley in Cooper Young is concerned about the city's more recent plan for the fairgrounds (with a green space promenade, ball fields, residential, and smaller retail opportunities) and has organized this meeting to let the neighborhood voice its desires. Alex is Henry Turley's nephew, and he supports his uncle's plan, which originally had the blessing of the city before the more recent option emerged. Turley would like to build the fairgrounds around an athletic complex for regional youth sports (to complement the focus of the Kroc Center) and a larger retail component, with hotels and larger stores, ideally a Target and grocery store.

I see good things in both plans. Like many Midtowners, I would love to see a quality grocery move in (Trader Joe's would be my first choice, or a Whole Foods or Fresh Market), and I've wanted a Target for years. However, the Turley plan does not seem to allow for much, if any, free green space. His green space is planned for ball fields and other programmed activities. I love the newer plan's idea of a long green promenade from East Parkway to the Coliseum that would double as tailgating, a la the Grove in Oxford, for football weekends.

Memphis is toward the bottom of the nation on percentage of parkland in its city area. We have only 5.1% of our space devoted to parkland (a large chunk of which is in one place at Shelby Farms), where Albuquerque, N.M. has 30%. New York has 19.6%, Washington, D.C. has 19.4%, and Austin, TX has 16.3%. I'd hate for several hundred acres of publicly held land to be divvied up without any green space reserved for park space.

I was at a meeting with Henry Turley about this plan last week, and he doesn't have a full plan laid out on paper. He wants community input before making a final plan. He seemed very open to ideas about enviornmental issues such as reducing light pollution from ballfield lights and including storm water retention -- the problem with redevelopment is that Overton Park is already threatened with invasive engineering projects aimed to fix flooding in this same already-at-capacity watershed. Any plan approved has got to be environmentally sound so as not to add runoff in an already flood-prone area.

Anyway, that's my wish list. Go make your own wish list known Thursday night.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Veterans' Day Memorial

There will be a Veterans Day Ceremony sponsored by the DAR held at the Doughboy Statue this Wednesday at 11:00 A.M. (11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). If you are free, please join in this recognition of our veterans.


The Hayride was a great evening out in the park. I don't remember when I've last had s'mores (chocolate is always first in my mind), the mules were charming, and it was lovely to ride through the Old Forest in the darkness and watch the stars and the tree tops against the sky. It was my first time at the event, and apparently our rain date cut down on attendance somewhat, but it was a lovely stream of neighbors and friends. I met some great people, saw some good friends, and enjoyed the perfect November evening. Hope to see all of you out there next year.

Willy Bearden dispensed hot chocolate to the crowd.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Come out and join us this evening from 6-8 pm by the East Parkway Pavilion. We'll have a mule team pulling a wagon through the Old Forest, a campfire, s'mores, marshmallows, and a membership table where you can renew for the year or buy an organic t-shirt or canvas grocery bag. It's one of the few chances a year to be out in the forest under the stars, and the weather is perfect. Don't miss it!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Overton Square plans changing

The CA had an article about the latest incarnation of plans for Overton Square. The developer is making some changes after complaints that their original layout was too suburban and car-centric in feel for Midtown in general and Overton Square in particular. They've added an extra building along Cooper to soften the large parking lot, and the plaza at the corner of Madison and Cooper looks quite nice.

However, the article failed to address the flooding issue in Midtown that centers on Lick Creek, which runs directly underneath the property in question. Belleair and the zoo, both just downstream of Overton Square, are flooding regularly, and Overton Park is threatened with various plans to try to fix the flooding. All of these involved digging and building berms, none of which are desirable in a historic park.

Any building in Overton Square MUST address storm water run-off (heightened dramatically by big box roofs and parking lots) to keep from adding to this problem. Green roofs and storm water collection need to be required by the city to keep the already out of hand problem from getting even worse. Developers routinely get a pass from dealing with storm water containment, but that has got to stop. This enforcement also needs to apply to any development that might happen in the fairgrounds, also situated just by a tributary that feeds this flood problem.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The weather this week looks downright awful, so we're moving the hayride to Friday, Nov. 6th (weather permitting) instead. It will be from 6-8 pm, by the East Parkway Pavilion. We'll have a mule team or two pulling wagons through the Old Forest, a campfire, s'mores, marshmallows, and a membership table where you can renew for the year or buy a t-shirt. Please help us spread the word about this last minute date change.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hayride plus rain

I'm getting a little nervous about Friday night's hayride given the weather forecast. Watch this space for updates on rain date options or alternate plans.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall is here!

I love the colors of fall. Everything seems so vivid all of a sudden, after the washed out glare of summer. The sky, esp., is a more beautiful color than at any other time of year.

Even poison ivy looks pretty this time of year.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Volunteer Week

According to almost every comic strip in the paper this morning, it's volunteer week. Take this opportunity to pick up a little litter in the park where you walk/run/take your dog. The less trash on the ground, the less likely other people are to throw trash. Sadly this is not 100% effective, but I do believe it's a deterrent to littering if a space is beautifully clean. Maybe we can test that theory this week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mud Island final design survey

The Riverfront Development Corp. has narrowed plans for Mud Island down to three options, two of which have lots of park/recreation/civic space, and the third of which is much heavier on private residential and development options. They have a survey on their site about how much space should be allotted for different purposes. Please take a couple of minutes to let your voice be heard on this issue. Mud Island could be a wonderful asset to Memphis if this new plan is handled correctly. The deadline to offer feedback is Oct. 30th.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Teton Trek Opens

Brian Carter, the zoo staffer who's on our board at Park Friends sent along these photos for the blog. Teton Trek opened this weekend to the general public, along with its much anticipated orphaned bear cubs. It also contains wolves (further down) and a lodge meant to evoke the iconic grand lodge at Yellowstone (below).
It's been a rocky road to Teton Trek for the zoo, but the exhibit looks to be marvelous from the inside. I'm looking forward to seeing the bear cubs on my return to Memphis. They will be an asset to the city, and it's good recognition for both Memphis and our zoo that we were chosen to receive them.

Sadly, the exhibit looks less than marvelous from the backside, which is the side of itself that it shows to walkers, bikers, and everyone else enjoying our native Old Forest in Overton Park. Even a number of zoo lovers in the neighborhood have remarked on how ugly the forest road has become with the zoo building storage buildings right out to the road. They were supposed to leave a screen of trees but expanded right up to the fence instead. Brian answered my question about screening and said that the landscaping guys were supposed to be planting some screening plants within the next week, weather permitting. There's not much space left for screening plants, but hopefully now that the rush to get the front of the exhibit ready is over, the zoo will put some serious thought into how to make the back of the exhibit more attractive for their neighbors.
Because of the public backlash over both the clearcutting and the current appearance of Teton Trek, the zoo is working hard to solicit community feedback on their plans for Chickasaw Bluffs, the last of the Old Forest area that is behind their fence. Please take a moment to look at their proposed plan and submit your thoughts on the project.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Flasher warning

Word was being passed today between walkers that there was a flasher in the Old Forest this morning. I got it second hand (from someone who talked to her directly) that a friend of mine was flashed on the jogging trail. A short, stocky guy in a gray track suit was hiding in the fringe of the woods and stepped out onto the trail as she approached and pulled down his pants. She'd seen him earlier in the week as well.

The police had been called as I was leaving the park, but this is a good reminder that it's never a bad idea for women to walk back through the forested areas with a buddy or a big dog. We've made a lot of strides toward safety in the last few decades in Overton Park, but urban forests by their nature in location and lack of visibility can occasionally be taken advantage of by creeps and dangerous people. I got flashed in a similar setting in Athens once -- a big, forested park just opposite the Acropolis. So be cautious, walk with a friend when possible, and call the police if there are any problems. We want this stuff on their radar.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Volunteer Reinforcements for Parks

The CA has a good story today on Joan Alperin, a volunteer landscaper at Fox Meadows Golf Course, one of the city-owned courses. She spends hours each week tending to the golf course and setting out plants for it. Outdoors, Inc. co-owner Joe Royer says that the park closest to your home is the most important park in the world.

Memphis parks are lucky to have various people adopt them and do a bit more tending and caretaking than the DPS budget can manage on its own. Lee Askew and Mary Allie McClellan have been long time daily litter gatherers on their morning walks through Overton Park. We've also been lucky enough to have different people clearing and maintaining Old Forest trails and the jogging trail. Overton Park manager Gary Basye cites Park Friends' volunteer efforts in the article.

Ms. Alperin makes the point that if everyone picked up just a bit of what they encounter in their daily lives, Memphis could be transformed. Please consider picking up a few pieces of litter, pulling a few weeds from flowerbeds, or doing other small services for the park that is most important to you. If many of us did a few small things regularly, our parks would become their best selves.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pink Palace Crafts Fair at Audubon

Glassware from Nancy Roarke above, and my husband Elmore Holmes demonstrating bowl carving below. Come by and say hi to us -- we'll be there all weekend.
Raku pottery by Bruce Odell. He's just across from us in the demonstration area and puts on a great show with open flame to get that amazing glaze texture.
The crafts fair continues today -- 10-6 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday. Come out and see beautiful handmade works of all kinds!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Festival Day

Nuts! Over Art, the first annual family art festival, was put on jointly by Brooks, Memphis College of Art, RiverArts festival, and the Levitt Shell. Here's "Nutty", the mascot of the festival, rendered by one of the MCA professors.
There were artists demonstrating all day as well as a whole series of interactive art projects for kids. The piece below is a painting with encaustic (hot wax) by Mary Long-Postal.
The New Ballet Ensemble taught moonwalking and other dance moves to kids. The Park Friends booth had the best view of the ongoing dance lessons, and I highly enjoyed watching the professional dancers hanging out with the kids.
And in front of Brooks was a chalk art contest for kids. There was some beautiful work, but sadly the bride of the day made them wash it off before evening. I'd been hoping the walkers, joggers, and museum guests would be able to enjoy it for the rest of the weekend.
How would you not want this festive, colorful display adorning the entrance to your wedding?

WOOFSTOCK! Simultaneously on the Greensward was the dog and music festival. I never could get hold of a music line-up for them, but they had some great blues going when I walked over there.
Rescue groups were out in full force, including the local basset hound rescue group with the cutest greeters. I personally heard of a couple of adoptions, and I hope there were many more. All in all, it was a wonderful day out at the park.
Cameron Kitchin, the director of Brooks, told me someone came up to him and said, "Every day in the park should be like this!" He said that would be great, but that someone else would have to plan some of them. All of the hosts (and esp. co-chairs Lee Askew and Bunny Goldstein) worked amazingly hard on the art festival, and I'm sure there were lots of hardworking people putting on Woofstock as well. Many thanks to all of them as well as to all of you who volunteered and helped the day go beautifully.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Thank You gift

Here's the linoleum block print that the new t-shirts and tote bags are based on. As a special thank you to anyone wishing to make a larger donation, a hand pulled print (ink mixed and rolled out by hand and printed by rubbing a wooden spoon on the back of the paper, one at a time) will be given to everyone who gives a membership donation of $250 or above. I did this print from a drawing of an oak tree in Overton Park, so it's truly appropriate for park lovers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two Free Festivals Saturday!

Don't forget to come on out to Overton Park on Saturday. The new family festival, Nuts! Over Art is happening in and around the Shell from 11-6. There will be concerts, children's art projects, demonstrating artists, exhibits inside MCA and Brooks, and a Park Friends table. Stop by and say hello and check out our new t-shirts and tote bags.
That same day, Woofstock will be returning to the Greensward -- bring your dog out and join the fun with yet more live music, pet themed vendors, rescue groups, and more. (Dogs on leashes are also welcome in the art festival, so you don't have to choose one or the other if you bring your four-legged friend.)

The Nuts! Over Art organizers could still use volunteers. Drop by to help set up from 8-10 am or visit to sign up to help man an information table during the day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Park-themed Music

Elmore and I heard a fun concert at the Shell yesterday -- we went over for Farmer Jason's children's show. Jason Ringenberg (formerly of Jason and the Scorchers, which is why we were there) did a great show. He talked about the Old Forest, he talked about different animals (skunks, toads, possums -- kids learned words like "amphibian" and "marsupial"), and he sang an awesome song about old oak trees after pointing out several of his favorite trees in the park to the kids.

We talked to him afterwards, and he said he loves the Old Forest and tries to go every time he's in Memphis. I loved having a performer with such an appreciation of the park play the Shell. We got his new album "Rockin' in the Forest" for our nieces and nephews, but we previewed it ourselves later that night. It's a winner if you've got kids who love the forest, or kids you would like to involve more in loving the forest, and the songs are appealing for adults as well. I esp. like "Ode to a Toad" and "The Old Oak Tree." Check out for more information.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jim Dickinson Tribute Monday night at the Shell

The Shell is hosting the "Jim Dickinson Memorial Folk Festival" this Monday night with a host of Memphis's best musicians paying tribute to the local legend, musician and producer.

Jim's son Luther Dickinson, his old bandmates Sid Selvidge and Jimmy Croswaith, Amy Lavere, Paul Taylor, Reba Russell, Keith Sykes, and others will be taking part. Check out this great photo of Crosthwait with his own intstrument/sculpture creation, and read more about the concert in the Flyer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Acres of Parks

The Memphis city General Services division is in the process of building a new building for ADA offices (American Disabilities Act) in the maintenance area in Overton Park. It's that area off East Parkway where greenhouses and repair shops were built some years ago where forest had been, next to the fire station (which was moved into the park when the previous building across East Parkway was torn down to make room for the expressway that thankfully never came).

I just got an interesting study in the mail. It compares cities across America and their park systems -- how many parks they have, how many acres, what they spend on them, etc. Memphis is toward the bottom of the heap in total acres of parks. We have only 5.1% of our city area set aside as public parks, where Albuquerque has 30%, New York has 19.6%, Minneapolis has 16.7%, San Diego has 21.9%, etc. It is difficult to add park land to an already established city, so that scarcity makes the space we have set aside even more precious in Memphis than in other places. Periodically there is a move to sell off park land to save money, but I believe that is short-sighted and to the detriment of the city as a whole.

I was sad to see the ADA building go up with no chance for public comment. Even though that part of the park is not open to the public, using space within the footprint of Overton Park for basic office space seems less than its highest use, esp. when so much office space is open downtown. I understand that budgets are tight, but once we give that land away, it's hard to reclaim it. There seems to be an automatic urge to use park land as "free land" for city projects instead of looking outside our scarce park resources, whether the "free land" is for a senior center, office space, or major flood control measures. I hope city officials across the board will set a high priority on preserving the land within our parks for public use and that they will also engage the citizens in conversation about the use of this land when projects are first proposed.

(I will take this chance to praise Parks Director Cindy Buchanan for coming to the rescue of a strip of Old Forest. The original ADA building plan ran the sewer line straight through the Old Forest and out to Poplar, but when I saw the construction sign, I contacted Cindy, and she immediately got with General Services and got the plan changed. Now the sewer line stays within the maintenance compound instead of bringing back-hoes out into the park proper.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bottle Bill

I got this from our former board member Don Richardson. We do have a litter problem in Memphis (we're now far from our days of winning prizes for being the cleanest city in the country), and a good bit of the trash I see both in the Old Forest and the Harbor downtown is bottles and cans. I'm curious to learn more about this new proposal:

Keeping Memphis Green means keeping
Memphis CLEAN! We can't keep using our
parks, streets, streams & landscape as a
garbage can...
Return the Returnables
A Public Forum on Tennessee's Bottle Bill
Thursday evening, Sept. 17
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Agricenter - Expo building Amphitheater
(Look for the red dome on the roof)
A public forum on the proposed "Bottle Bill", the
litter-and-recycling measure based on a 5-cent
deposit on beverage containers.
In addition to several national authorities and local
perspectives, the panel-style event includes time for
questions and comments from the audience.
Please attend and share your views.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Horn Island 25 TONIGHT!

Woops -- got it wrong. The opening is tonight, Saturday, from 6-9 pm. I'm on autopilot, thinking openings are always on Fridays. Too much time in the regular gallery world. MCA is bucking the trend, so come on out tonight.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Horn Island 25 art opening this Friday

Memphis College of Art leads a group of students to camp an d paint on Horn Island every year. It's off the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, and it's the island where Walter Anderson spent so much time painting. Some day I'm going to go paint there myself. In the meantime, the exhibit of work from this year's trip is up at MCA, and the opening is from 6-9 pm Friday, Sept. 10th. It's always an interesting exhibition -- I love seeing what different artists do with the same landscape. These works are by Jason William Cole, one of this year's students, and they really caught my eye when I ran across them on facebook. He's nicely allowed me to share them with you here.

Come on out to one of the coolest parties of the year tomorrow night and see all the work in person.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Birds and Bees extended

The weather is lovely, warm enough for the budgies still, so the excellent Birds and Bees exhibit has been extended for a bit. Take advantage of this opportunity to get over and feed the birds one more time before fall nips the air.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Families in the Park

I love holidays in the park. Merlin and I saw several families out at 8:30 am already setting up their cook outs --- claiming their favorite picnic tables, spreading the table cloths, firing up the grill, setting up the games. It's great to see several generations together out enjoying the park and making a day of it.

On our way home we ran into friends, also out with the whole family and new dog to go explore the Old Forest and look for spider webs. It's so festive on the days when everyone is home and can come and hang out and enjoy the park the way its planners hoped it would be enjoyed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Green Space Benefits

Elmore and I were walking home from Golden India last night and took Cooper into Overton Park. We crossed Poplar, stepped on to the golf course, and immediately felt the temperature drop several degrees, just entering the fringe of the golf course. It was like we stepped through an invisible curtain into a different ecosystem. It's amazing how different it is walking in the park than walking on the city streets.