Thursday, December 2, 2010

Outside Engineers

The national hydrology branch of Tetra Tech engineers recently held a public meeting to listen to the people of Midtown before they make their storm water recommendations to the city. The Flyer has an update about that meeting here.

If you couldn't make the meeting, you can still send them an email urging them to fix the flooding problem in Midtown without using the Greensward as storm water detention. That idea is not off the table yet, it's just been laying low for the last few months.

They'd like feedback by Friday, Dec. 3rd, and you can email them at

Thanks for taking the time to make a difference.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Maintenace Area Pondered

St. Jude wants to take over the downtown city/general services maintenance area near its campus, and the city is beginning to think about moving both it and the one in Overton Park to one consolidated location. The zoo has ideas about what might be a good use for that space. They want overflow parking first and foremost.

I think a better plan would be to have them build a garage (instead of continuing to add surface asphalt to the park) in their current staff parking/maintenance area, inside the current zoo footprint, and let them use a part of the maintenance area for greenhouses or whatever they need (provided they provide much more appropriate screening for other park users than they have been willing to along their other park boundary fences) and keep most of that area for park. Jimmy Jalenak of the zoo has been actively promoting this plan, but the tricky bit is finding funds for a parking garage (which is never as high on the zoo's list of priorities for its money as the new, sparkly exhibits).

The current masterplan has a second greensward in the Southeast corner of the park, and we need more free, open space in the park. Maybe we could put up soccer goals again, since the zoo never returned the ones to the Greensward that they removed for parking. Soccer was a highly popular activity until we lost the goals.

The CA has an article beginning the pubic debate. Let your voice be heard by the city!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Proposed Memphis Belle Memorial

A while ago the city administration signed a contract to allow the Memphis Belle Memorial Association to build a monument to the Belle adjacent to Veterans Plaza, between the Doughboy and the Korean memorial (at the zoo end). No park groups were consulted at that point, but I heard about it when they submitted their first design for review, and Parks Director Cindy Buchanan decided to form a review committee for Veterans Plaza in general, beginning with this project. It includes Cindy, me, Larry Franks (also DPS), Ritchie Smith, who designed the master plan for Overton Park, and John Weeden of Urban Art.

Their original proposal was a 40x20 foot concrete pad with a life-sized statue of Margaret Polk (the Belle herself) and a nine foot high granite "billboard" with information. We all felt that was too large, and they came back recently with the following proposal. It contains the life-sized bronze still, with a plaque that is laid back at a bit of an angle (unlike the current memorial plaques in the plaza), but it is still 4'2" high. The current ones are 5'5" high and feel far too high to me. They make something of a barrier to the views.

These are the drawings for the monument itself. They have proposed sidewalks on four sides, which would still mean a lot of concrete around it, but I hope we can reduce that.

The top drawing is the side view as you approach the monument from the plaza, walking past the Doughboy. You can see that the plaque is set at an angle, to be a little lower (if not a lot).

Below is the front of the monument, as seen directly from the plaza with the Greensward behind. The large bronze plaque will be a photo of the plane and crew.

This is the side view, seen from the zoo end of things.
There will be more historical information and a timeline in bronze on the back, facing the Greensward.

I am nervous about continuing to add things to Veterans Plaza, knowing that we also have two current wars underway and that the plaza is getting very full. We need to make sure that we don't get it too full (or worse, spill out into the rest of the park with such monuments), but it's a place that is very dear to the veterans of this community.

Anyway, here are the plans as they stand, and I thought it was time to at least get them out to be seen and have a public discussion if one is wanted. The Memphis Belle Association plans a groundbreaking at 11 am on Saturday, November 13th.

Friday, September 10, 2010

First Bicycle/Pedestrian coordinator for Memphis

Memphis has its first bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, finally, and I hope that smart growth and walkability will get more attention from the city now. Midtown needs a few north/south protected bike lanes to get people safely across Union/Poplar/Central.

The last time I asked one of the city engineers about a bike lane up Cooper all the way to Overton Park (they're planning one for further south, but they're not going to tie it in to the park), he responded that there is no sidewalk going in to the park from Cooper, and they didn't want to do a bike lane that far only to dump people on Poplar. That seems incredibly short-sighted to me, though I'm also frustrated that DPS has not taken the southern neighborhoods more into account for getting into the park. Lots of small areas funnel north to the park along Cooper, and there is no excuse not to have a sidewalk available there for strollers, kids' bikes, wheelchairs, etc.

Maybe the new coordinator can get that whole area properly taken care of.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Article on Memphis

Memphis, with a nice section on Overton Park and a tour around Midtown and Downtown, is the subject of this neat travel article in the Washington Post. It's about a new running tour of Memphis, for joggers who travel here and would like to see the city on foot. John Lintner, a Breakaway running employee (supporters of the park), and his wife Crissy started the company to help combat the image of Memphis as a fat, sedentary city. Good for them for highlighting our park and recreation side of things!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Flooding Meeting update

Here's a good update of the sanitary sewer meeting sponsored by the Lick Creek Coalition (including Park Friends) last night at Evergreen Presbyterian. This subject wasn't directly related to the storm water flooding that threatens the park (or the misguided solutions offered by the city so far do), but it's a related issue that is affecting various neighborhoods bordering the park. The coalition is working together (neighborhoods and park groups) to solve all the flooding issues in the Lick Creek basin.

The update came out with the Evergreen Historic District news today. Both Chris Morton and Bill Bullock of Evergreen were planners for the sanitary sewer meeting.

"Last night several dozen midtowners met at Evergreen Presbyterian Church to learn about plans for resolving the causes of sanitary sewer backups in basements during heavy rain events. Public Works Director Dwan Gillion was on hand with his staff to address issues. Also on the agenda was a representative of the Tennessee Clean Water Coalition, and a presentation of the data collected so far from affected Midtowners.

If you have had issues and filled out a survey, that information will be shared with Public Works to help them pinpoint the trouble areas and design and implement solutions. Public Works indicated they have been performing "smoke surveys" to locate breeches in the sanitary and storm sewers. If you have yet to fill out a survey, fill it out and send it in soon- it will presented to Public Works in a few days. To download a copy of the survey, click here.

Director Gilliom and staff indicated that the solution will require an assessment of the specific problems which they are doing now, the hiring of a consulting engineering firm to design the solutions, and then the implementation of those solutions which may include realigning existing
pipe, lining existing pipe with a "cured in place" product, or replacing pipe. There was an indication that such fixes may take as long as two years from now.

Most evidence points to these issues being caused by breaches in storm and sanitary sewers in city owned right-of-way. However, Director Gilliom noted that some issues may be exacerbated by issues with a homeowner's service line - the sewer line from the road right-of-way into the house. He recommended making sure all clean-out caps in yards are in place. He also advised than any repairs to that line are the homeowner's responsibility. A clean-out cap is usually a 5 inch diameter metal or PVC threaded covering over a sewer pipe in your front, back or side yard. If it is missing, storm water or other foreign material can enter your service line."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Play Overton

The golf clubhouse is open for business, and it's not just for golfers. Overton is still lagging in rounds played and concessions sold, so please stop in to the clubhouse, have a soda or a beer, and sit on the lovely porch and watch the park go by for a few minutes.

We have several Park Friend members who are paying for a round of golf a week, whether they play or not. It's only $7 per round (another $7 to rent a cart), and only $4 a round if you're a senior.

You can also pick up one of our "Play Overton" stickers for your car.

The publicity about closing the golf course went away (for now), but we need to get the numbers up to keep making a strong case to the city council that Overton Park is an important course for the city to invest in and keep open.

There's a new foreman on the course who's been improving the greens and the roughs, so if you haven't played in a while, PLAY OVERTON and check it out!

Currently the course and clubhouse are open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, but Park Friends and Councilman Kemp Conrad, who's taken an interest in the course, are encouraging DPS to give it a trial period of seven days a week for September and October. Audubon is closed for renovations, and the weather will break any time now, so it's a great time to test our numbers out at seven days a week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Skatepark at Tobey!

Finally Memphis is joining the rest of the country and getting a skatepark. I'm glad to see our recreation reaching out to more youth. The skatepark will be in Tobey Park, near the fairgrounds, where the new dog park already is. It's nice to see Tobey get some attention and amenities, and hopefully it will continue to benefit from the fairground redevelopment. You can read the full CA article here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Flyer article on Lick Creek

Halley Johnson wrote a nice overview article (with a great photo) on the Lick Creek issue and Jim Strickland's resolution to hire an outside engineer.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Photos from the Overton Park Junior Open

Board member Melanie White always is the Park Friends representative at the OPJO, one of the oldest youth golf tournaments in the country. Park Friends has helped sponsor it for several years now, and Melanie sent these photos in from this past week's play.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Emails needed before Tuesday!

Councilman Jim Strickland has proposed a resolution, passed in committee this past Tuesday, that would hire an outside expert in hydrology (no local engineers that we can find will go on record against the city engineers' Overton Park retention basin plan, since they all want to get contracts from the city) to survey the Midtown flooding and make recommendations. The city engineers are misrepresenting the 2006 study they commissioned and trying to do one large project in Overton Park instead of smaller projects all along the length of Lick Creek. We need an outside engineer to prove to the council that there are better and more effective solutions.

Please email the mayor and city council to let them know you support Jim Strickland's resolution. My letter is below. People present for the council meeting wearing park shirts Tuesday morning would also be very welcome.,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Dear Mayor Wharton,

I attended the council meeting this morning to support Councilman Strickland's resolution to have an outside engineering company that specializes in storm water issues do a study of the Lick Creek plan before proceeding with the city engineers' project.

I am the president of Park Friends and have been a member of the Lick Creek coalition from its beginning, and I have learned far more about storm water than I ever wanted to in my efforts to defend Overton Park from harm. The 2006 study by Oakley Ellers of the Lick Creek area concluded that detention in Overton Park will not help either Belleair or VECA, where the houses are flooding. They studied a smaller detention area than is currently being proposed by Director Gaskins, but they concluded it would not help.

The current proposal, which dumps a great deal more water in the park, has not been studied at all. Our coalition has tried to get local engineers to comment on the proposal, but all local engineers seem to be involved in city contracts one way or another, and no one will go on record about a plan proposed by the city office. We desperately need an outside, objective, expert opinion to weigh in on this major change to the park before we seriously consider it.

This plan may not help at all. The 2006 study said the only remedy was smaller detention basins up and down the length of Lick Creek. Your engineers have implemented only one of the study's recommendations as laid out, and it is not finished yet. Director Gaskins has been very unwilling to follow the study he himself commissioned and instead has come up with this one, huge, unstudied alternative that does harm to the park.

Please support Councilman Strickland as he tries to get an expert to take a look at our total drainage situation in Midtown before we do a large, irrevocable project with unknown consequences in an important and historic park.

Thank you for your support of our parks and green spaces.
Martha Kelly,
president, Park Friends

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Old Forest Good for Health

The New York Times published an article saying that spending time in parks and forests can boost your white blood cells and lower your blood pressure, among other benefits. The Japanese have long recognized this benefit and go "forest bathing". It's also the coolest place to walk these hot days, so go ahead and reconnect to the Old Forest.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Great Trail Work Session

Twenty people showed up on a Monday night to help work on the running trail -- many thanks to everyone who came out! It was a joint project between Park Friends and Rhodes college, and the entire trail got raked and trimmed.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trail Work Help Needed

Melanie White, Park Friends board member and daily runner, is planning a work session on the running trail around Overton Park this Monday night (tomorrow) and would love to have some volunteers show up. Weekends can be hard for families, so this is Monday night from 6-8pm (should be cooling off). Meet at the pavilion on the East Parkway side and bring a rake or shovel. Thanks to any of you who can come and help out!

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Midtown Dog Park

The new midtown dog park will be dedicated tomorrow morning (Saturday, June 5th) at 11:00 -- everyone welcome. It's on the old childrens' theater site at 2599 Avery (behind the board of ed and the parks dept.). It's a pilot one, and it's in the possible fairgrounds development area, so it's not fancy in case it gets moved soon, but it's a start. Go on out and support midtown having one if you're free.

Monday, May 10, 2010

On Vacation

I'm off on vacation for the next couple of weeks, but I'll be home to tend this space again at the end of May. Y'all enjoy springtime in the park while I'm gone.


There has been a strong uptick of graffiti in the park over the last months. It is all through the forest trails, on water fountains, posts, anything that doesn't move. It's always something of a problem, but I'm seeing a lot more of it lately.

I asked Larry Franks at Parks about it. He promptly got a police gang expert out to look at it, and it doesn't seem to be gang related, which is the good news. (And I hadn't noticed any change in the usage of the park over that period, so that makes sense.)

The bad news is that means that some of our regular park users have a destructive bent. So please remember (and remind anyone you see with a spray can) to take only pictures and leave only footprints. We could do without the litterers as well.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Music in the Parks

Di Anne Price plays the Shell

My friend Mark Jones reposted some news of bygone days from the Commercial Appeal.

100 years ago: 1910

"Main Street retailers have petitioned the Park Commission to have a band concert every Saturday night in Court Square. The businessmen point out that music will induce people to come downtown and will improve business Saturday night."

How lucky are we to have the Shell doing the same thing for Overton Park? Tons new people have been introduced to the beauty of our park thanks to the free concert series at the Shell.

Please remember, though, that the concerts aren't really free. The Levitt foundation is making a donation for the first five years, but that only covers about 25% of the current season. If we want this great music to continue, we need to support our shell and make a donation to help them get great bands.

This year's season starts May 21st. Come on out, bring the blanket and a group of friends, and put something in the bucket.

By the way, don't you miss the Park Commission? I wish we still had that layer of protection for our city parks. The recreation opportunities they provided (concerts in a bandstand, athletic leagues, etc.) were a real benefit to the city.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Coming up on Mud Island

I just got the following list of events from the Mud Island publicity people. They didn't say who the band is for Rock-n-Romp, but what a great place to have it.

Call 901-576-7241 or visit for more information about any of these.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

River Run Race & Scavenger Hunt

12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Admission: Free

Travel from Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico hunting for items, solving trivia, and performing crazy tasks in Mud Island River Park’s River Run Race & Scavenger Hunt!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sleep Out on the Mississippi

Join us for Sleep Out on the Mississippi at the beautiful Mud Island River Park. Campers sleep underneath the stars next to Ole Man River. Just bring yourself to enjoy this unique camping experience. We provide a 12’x12’ tent, dinner, live entertainment, recreational activities, campfire with marshmallows, and breakfast. Just bring your sleeping bag. Advanced reservations required due to limited space.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


2:00 pm. – 5:00 p.m.

Admission: Free (Adults: $5 Donation to Rock-n-Romp requested)

Rock-n-Romp is a backyard party consisting of local bands and musicians playing music for parents and their kids! It’s all about exposing kids to live music in a kid-friendly way.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Funday Sunday – Father’s Day Olympics

11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Admission: Free

Celebrate Father’s Day at Mud Island River Park by participating in the Father’s Day Olympics! Games of strength, agility, and speed for father and child teams of all ages

Friday, April 30, 2010

Businessman Joe Royer talks about the importance of parks

The finish line of the Outdoors, Inc. Canoe and Kayak Race

Joe Royer, local kayaker, bicyclist, and co-owner of Outdoors, Inc., has written a wonderful guest editorial this week in the Flyer about how well-maintained parks contribute to the overall success of a city. Joe has spent decades fighting an uphill battle in Memphis to promote outdoor activities and the parks that host them.

Many city leaders do not see this as one of the important issues in Memphis, and it is their short-sightedness that lands us at the bottom of so many negative national lists. The RDC, for example, is in charge of our riverfront, but they seem to be purely interested in large, land-based capital projects, not in improving access for watersports. The river is Memphis' only wilderness adventure, and we should be promoting it and making access to it easy. Instead, the RDC closes boat ramps, wants to rip-rap the cobblestones, and is constructing a huge new flagship boat facility to serve now-defunct companies while making no provision for smaller watercraft.
photo by Joe Royer of Elmore Holmes on a wintry morning

Memphis has had a similar short-sightedness about our parks, letting developers and city building projects nibble away our parks bit by bit. This is why it is so crucial to get an easement that will protect all the remaining open green space in Overton Park. I have hopes that Mayor Wharton will make positive strides in both maintenance and protection for our parks. We'll see what priorities his proposed budget will contain.

Monday, April 26, 2010

T.O. Fuller Threatened -- Online Petition to Sign

The state budget cuts are threatening to close the golf course at T.O. Fuller State Park here in the Memphis area. It's the only other area park I know of that has an active park friends group that does maintenance and projects, and it would be a shame for the state to cripple one of our important area parks. As at Overton Park, the friends of T.O. Fuller feel that the park gets attention and maintenance because of the presence of the golf course. I would fear for Overton if we lost our golf course, and they fear that the closing of their course is a prelude to the closing of their park.

Middle and East Tennessee have many beautiful state parks, and it feels like a West Tennessee state park in an African American area tends to get less attention and care from far-flung state officials than some of the more flagship parks in tourist areas. Please rally around and take a minute or two to show support for an area park. There's an online petition to sign on the Friends of T.O. Fuller website.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Tree Planting Thanks

Many thanks to Park Friends board member Melanie White, who arranged an impromptu tree planting effort last week. Mel, Gretchen Wingbigler (also on our board), Cristina Pinkham, and Ann Foshee helped DPS horticulturalist Richard Beckwith plant 42 baby shumard oaks, which will grow up and help replace the tree canopy that is fast falling in Midtown. What a great gift to the future for all of you to make!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great CA photo

I failed to notice the photo slideshow attached to the article I posted earlier, but Larry Franks of DPS, who took charge of special trash collection for the morning after clean-up, sent me this, and it's too good not to share. The photo is by Nikki Boertman of the CA, and you can see the whole series of photos here.

4/20 Roundup

It was a quieter day than I expected yesterday. Apparently the police presence this year (greatly increased, probably due to the zoo free day problems last month) deterred a bunch of the usual people from coming out. They had a watch tower in place the night before to greet all comers, and the crowd looked to me to be less than half what it had been the last couple of years.
DPS put out extra trash containers this year. Last year the crowd really tried to clean up after itself, but the available cans were not up to the task. Thanks to Larry Franks for getting us backup trash cans ahead of time this year!

Linda Moore, a CA reporter who always has park interests on her radar, wrote an article today that said the police made about 30 arrests. All was peaceful when Merlin and I walked over to restock Old Forest maps in the Park Friends kiosk and check out the scene. No fights, no upsets. It's always a friendly, welcoming crowd out enjoying the park. I'm sorry I missed the dancing banana.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

4/20 Today

4/20 (the national pot smoking day that has become a day out on the Greensward the last few years) has its own poster this year. There will be bands, a huge crowd of people, a police blue crush tower (in place yesterday), a multitude of trash boxes (many thanks to DPS getting those out ahead of time), and zoo free day parking traffic. All in all, it should be a wild day on the Greensward today, so either go and enjoy the chaos, or consider yourself forewarned. I think I'll wander over with my camera to see the fun.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Old Forest Wildflowers, part two

The wildflowers are still lovely in the Old Forest. Merlin and I have been enjoying walking the trails all spring. (Though look out for occasional stands of poison ivy now reaching out into the paths.) Here's phlox, which is in full bloom right now.
Jack in the pulpit. I've only seen this in one place (it's hard to spot, since the green blends in with the spring poison ivy tones).
Wild Geranium is blooming like crazy in several different places just now.
The Mayapples are at their peak -- some still blooming, while the early ones already have their apples.
Here are more Mayapples with Jacob's Ladder (almost gone now).
And the Buckeye is everywhere. I especially like looking up and seeing it against the sky.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tree Planters Needed

Park Friends, in cooperation with DPS horticulturist Richard Beckwith, is looking for volunteers to help plant 35 baby shumard oaks this Tuesday, April 13th at 9:00am. We will meet at the Overton Park Golf House and should be finished within 1-2 hours. They're very small sticks right now, so the digging shouldn't be too strenuous. Sorry for the short notice but these trees were donated and must be planted now to insure the best hope for the survival. We hope you can join us for this.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

John Branston on Free Day

Here's a nice meditation from the Flyer's John Branston on the psychology of "free" and how we value the things we pay for, even if the price is just a token fee.

Old Forest Wildflowers

The wildflowers are blooming their heads off for us in the Old Forest right now. It's a great time for a hike through the woods. Merlin and I have been taking full advantage of the paths in the forest on our morning walks lately. The wood poppies have been flaunting their yellow all through the heart of the forest. I think they spread more every year.
The periwinkle colored flower is Jacob's Ladder, one of my favorites, which has several rich swathes blooming near the center of the forest.
Trillium is all over -- we have a wonderful abundance of it.

The toothwort has just about finished now, but it was the first wildflower to put on a real display.

The mayapples are just beginning to open their flowers underneath their lovely umbrellas, so I'll try to get some photos to share here soon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Park Trees

Trees are leafing out in the park (thank goodness -- I've been ready for a while), but I thought I'd share one more bare trees drawing to say goodbye to winter and usher in spring.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Zoo announces new policies

The zoo released new attendance policies today in the wake of Tuesday's chaotic free day. Read them here.

Lick Creek Update

The city engineers keep coming up with new plans for flood detention in Overton Park. The most recent one scraps the high concrete wall around the edge of the zoo lot in favor of a two to four foot high berm (grass) hugging the edge of the high ground around the greensward roughly from the huge magnolias (where the zoo cars currently enter) on east to near the edge of the lake. While this plan will definitely hold more water during heavy rains, it doesn't disrupt the Greensward nearly as badly as their previous plan to dig it out 18 feet deep.

This latest plan leaves almost all the flat part of the Greensward untouched and available for games (the zoo is supposed to returning the soccer goals at long last), picnics, kite flying, etc.

I feel that the above list of activities should no longer include the zoo parking. The city is asking the park to take extra water to protect the zoo and the Belleair neighborhood, and in return, they should return the park to the people. We're still in talks with the engineers, and I hope to have a map to show this plan soon. Watch this space for updates.

Park Media Coverage continues

In addition to three letters to the editor in favor of legal protection for Overton Park, the main editorial today was on Tuesday's chaos that led to the brief closing of the park. I'm glad to see the park getting so much public attention, and I hope this leads to real change in the park, both permanent, legal protection and some rethinking of a few zoo policies (esp. parking on the Greensward) that takes the needs of the park and the surrounding neighborhoods into account.

I've had several email exchanges with zoo leaders who are looking for creative alternatives to the current free day structure, and hopefully they are also making progress on their quest to find an off-site parking area to supplement their main lot. It's past time for the Greensward to be for picnics, not parking.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good litter pick-up by the zoo

I walked to the Greensward this morning after the 25,000+ influx into the park yesterday fully expecting to find the area trashed and was pleasantly surprised. The zoo has been taking the litter left on the Greensward by its patrons much more seriously this year. They've routinely been putting out a dozen or so trash boxes, scattered around the Greensward, on the days they encroach with their parking, and it's made a huge difference. They've also got their crews clearing up any trash in a more timely manner, which I'm very grateful for.

By 9:30 this morning the zoo's side of the Greensward looked lovely. There was an uptick of litter over the "line of demarcation" from the Doughboy to the sign by the lake that marks off the section where they park. This litter wasn't there yesterday, so it's fair to assume that at least some of it was the record zoo crowd, but there wasn't nearly as much as I would have expected, and the zoo did a great job of cleaning up their end of things. This has been a much bigger problem in years past, and I truly appreciate their addressing it and withdrawing from the Greensward leaving it looking as good as they found it on parking overflow days.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gridlock in Evergreen

It was the city schools' spring break and the free afternoon at the zoo today, and chaos reigned in the Evergreen neighborhood. Today demonstrated the immediate and urgent need for the zoo to find an off-site parking/shuttle solution, and quickly.
One of my friends who lives on McLean said it took her 45 minutes to travel north from Poplar Ave. to her home, partway up that longish block. Another took equally long to make it the two blocks from North Parkway to Galloway. If we had had a fire in Evergreen, the entire neighborhood could have burned before fire trucks made it through the streets that masqueraded as standing parking lots. I live in the heart of the city and am in favor of parking and walking. Streets are made to park on. But today the streets turned into parking lots themselves, which is dangerous.

Frustration ruled the day. One woman, whose car was sitting stock still in the middle of my street and blocking my driveway, mouthed off at me for wanting to be able to turn into my own drive. Much, much worse were the shots that were fired from the middle of the chaos on the Greensward. My father was walking his dog there at the time, heard the shots (pistol, he thought), and saw the police come.

This is not a sustainable system. Yes, it was one of the worst days of the year because of spring break, but the zoo has got to get a better plan and not have the entire neighborhood grind to a halt. Off-site parking is long overdue, and with the huge donations they've gotten over the years, it's time to make this a priority. I've been assured that this is something the zoo is working hard on, and I hope they make progress soon. There are enormous, currently idle parking lots at the fairgrounds and at the Sears tower, both within easy shuttle bus distance. The parking on the Greensward didn't even make a dent in the traffic today, so it's time for the zoo to give the park back to the people and make arrangements that can actually handle zoo needs.

Before we have a baby panda or elephant, please!

Here's the view looking north on McLean from Overton Park. Northbound traffic was stalled completely as far as the eye could see in both directions.

The CA story on the same topic is here. Apparently the zoo admitted a record crowd of 25,314.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Flyer article on the Park

Mary Cashiola has done it again -- written a wonderful column about the latest developments in Overton Park. I really appreciate her keeping these issues front and center while the future of our park is mulled over by those in power. Read it here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Natural Area Conversation

There's been a bit of back and forth lately on the CA editorial page about the proposed natural area legislation that's pending with the state. Naomi Van Tol of CPOP wrote a guest column last week arguing that the zoo's self-proclaimed interest in conservation and forestry should lead them to support this bill. Today's response by Chuck Brady, CEO of the zoo, said that the natural area would be too restrictive (control of the park in Nashville instead of Memphis) and that the city should institute a conservation easement instead.

Park Friends had a good discussion about this issue at our latest meeting. Historically the city has done a very bad job of protecting our most important park. "Do we need a new fire station? Let's cut some trees and put it in the park. Do we need a maintenace area/offices/new ADA building? Let's cut some trees and put them in the park? New senior center? Let's cut some trees and put it in the park." (Fortunately, Park Friends battled that one down.) "The zoo needs a new exhibit? Let's cut some trees and put it in the park." It is way past time for the city to step up and institute permanent, legal protection for Overton Park, and if the city isn't willing, Overton Park is precious enough that the state should do it instead.

With the natural area legislation hanging over their heads, the city and the zoo together are proposing a conservation easement instead. Park Friends has strongly suggested that if the city wants to pre-empt this legislation, they should protect more of the park than the proposed legislation does. We think the city should include the priceless Greensward in any easement instead of just covering the Old Forest. The Greensward does not meet the requirements for a state natural area, but it could easily be included in a local easement, and it has been threatened so many times that it, too, deserves protection.

The zoo argues that the natural area legislation is too restrictive for the city park usage that Overton Park gets (biking, jogging, roads through the forest). Many natural areas are quite restrictive, but each legislated area has a specific master plan written that is tailored to its needs. If the legislation goes through, we as citizens need to stay involved in the process and make sure that the master plan reflects our busy urban park, but both Senator Marrero and Representative Richardson, who are sponsoring the bill, have told me that they don't wish to restrict the park in any way, only to protect it for future generations. We also need to make sure that any city-written easement is strong enough to protect the park.

I think legal protection in either form is a wonderful step forward for the park, but Park Friends calls on the city to step up and do more than the natural area could and include the Greensward in any easement plan that they write. It is time to protect both the Old Forest and the Greensward for all Memphians in times to come.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saturday night happenings at the Metal Museum

I just got the following from Carissa Hussong, and it sounds like a great way to get out and enjoy a beautiful, interesting eveing by the river:

Join us this Saturday, March 27 for sunset on the bluff and a night of fun as the Riverbluff Forge Council and the Metal Museum present Forging on the River.

Drop in the blacksmith shop between 5:00 and 6:30 for a demo and discussion by Holly Fisher, our current Artist-in-Residence. Or head over to the foundry to make a scratch block tile or bowl, then watch as your design is poured in aluminum. Our galleries and gift shop will also be open so you can get one last look at our current exhibition, Different Tempers, before it closes.

Dinner and the art auction begin at 6:30. Members of the River Bluff Forge Council have donated their work, and all proceeds benefit the Museum. We have one-of-a-kind jewelry, vessels, and other metalwork, including this silver and pearl necklace, donated by Stephanie Polk.

The auction and blacksmithing demo are free, dinner is available for a small suggested donation, and metalworking activities require a small fee to cover materials costs.
For more information, contact Carissa at (901) 774-6380.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Park Friends CLEAN-UP April 3rd

Come join Park Friends for our spring clean-up of Overton Park on Saturday, April 3rd from 9-12. Come to the golf house and bring your work gloves. We'll provide garbage bags, snacks, and drinks. It's always a fun morning, and it feels great to bring the family out and make our park beautiful.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tree drawing

I've been drawing bare trees for bulletin covers at Idlewild Presbyterian for Lent. Of course, I've been walking over to Overton Park to find the trees I want to draw, so I thought I'd share these here as well. It's wonderful to live so near a park and a forest that have such a rich visual tapestry to offer all comers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Playground for Shelby Farms

The CA reports today that Shelby Farms will build a beautiful new playground as part of their capital improvements over the next year or so. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Overton Park could get a new playground as well? Jimmy Jelanak of the zoo recently suggested to Park Friends a company that builds playgrounds to fit your site and uses community volunteers for the actual installation (much like Habitat for Humanity). We're going to explore the possibility of getting something nice for our Midtown park as well. Maybe the community can come together and get this done.