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.)

No comments:

Post a Comment