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.

Posted by Picasa

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.