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.

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