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.