Friday, February 26, 2010

New Halfpipe in Greenlaw

Mary Cashiola writes in this week's Flyer about the new skateboard center at Greenlaw Community Center:

"I've been impressed by Skatelife Memphis' perseverance. Even amid setbacks and delays with both the Riverfront Development Corpation's and the city's plans for skateparks, the organization has looked for innovative ways to achieve its goal of creating places where kids can skate.

Based on historical evidence — a golf course in every council district — I think that once the first skatepark is a success, every district is going to be clamoring for one."

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Parks Director Buchanan not yet reappointed

The CA is reporting today that three city directors, including parks director Cindy Buchanan, have not been reappointed yet. Most other directors are being submitted for the council's consideration. There seems to be some doubt if a parks department will even exist as a separate entity. Having lost the independent Park Commission somewhat earlier, thanks to previous council members and mayor not wishing to have any check on use of the parks for their purposes, we cannot afford to lose a director who focuses exclusively on the well being of our city parks. Memphis is already near the bottom nationally of spending on its parks, and we need someone to be looking out for their welfare.

I'm especially disappointed because Director Buchanan has been very responsive to park users' concerns and requests. Maintenance requests have been handled quickly under her watch, and when General Services planned to bulldoze a sewer line directly through the Old Forest a few months ago, she went to bat for the park and got that stopped in a day, even though she was out of town on vacation at the time. According to people who have been on the Park Friends board longer than I have, we have not always had such a responsive parks director.

Mayor Wharton's emphasis on Greening Greater Memphis made me hope that he would honor and preserve our parks better than the previous administration. I hope he will make the parks' welfare a major priority for his administration. The public parks are Memphis' welcome mat that greet guests to our city. If we do not maintain them, it sends a city to anyone looking to move or relocate a business here that Memphis does not take care of itself and is not worthy of investment by others.

If you would like to make your opinion known, you can email Mayor Wharton at

Snow Day

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Proposed Natural Area Bill

State Senator Beverly Marrero and House Rep. Jeanne Richardson have proposed a bill to make the Old Forest in Overton Park a state natural area. The idea is to protect the forest, including the acres behind the zoo's fence, from any more clear cutting, which Park Friends would totally support. We need to make sure all necessary research is done, however, before this bill becomes law.

Most natural areas have very restrictive rules that make them more ecological preserve than urban park. For example, many ban jogging, as too high impact on the trails. The default setting is to ban any cutting of grass or vines to maintain trails, as well as "re-naturalizing" roads. The number of people using a natural area can be restricted, which is not what we want for the central gathering place for the heart of the city. You can read more about the rules governing state natural areas here.

A master plan can be written with exemptions based on these specific needs, but there's no master plan in place yet, and Senator Marrero's office does not yet know the procedure for making one or who would be in charge of that process. Her Nashville staff is busily educating themselves on these issues at this moment and should be bringing the concerned parties together for discussion soon. We need to make sure that Overton Park would have an appropriate master plan that would allow for maintenance of the jogging and hiking trails, walking of dogs, and preservation of our asphalt pedestrian roads through the forest that are extensively used by biking families, parents with jogging strollers, dog walkers, and multiple races, including the Memphis Marathon. More protection for our park sounds lovely, as long as the park remains open for all its current uses.