Greensward ‘com­pro­mise’ good for park and for zoo

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint -

Mayor Jim Strickland can add Saved the Greensward to his grow­ing list of “bril­liant at the ba­sics” ac­com­plish­ments.

The city’s fi­nal plan for ex­panded zoo park­ing will pro­tect nearly all of Over­ton Park’s ex­pan­sive open lawn while in­creas­ing park­ing ca­pac­ity at the zoo by nearly 50 per­cent.

Even more im­por­tantly, the plan will pre­serve the his­toric, aes­thetic and recre­ational value and pur­pose of the park de­signed more than a cen­tury ago by land­scape ar­chi­tect Ge­orge Kessler.

By 2020, the sight of hun­dreds of cars parked in­tru­sively on the grass — and the ris­ing threat of sur­ren­der­ing the greensward to as­phalt — will be found only in Face­book mem­o­ries.

It’s a shame the plan will re­quire pav­ing 2.4-acres of the lawn’s re­mote north­east cor­ner. But zoo park­ing has been fill­ing up to half of the greensward’s 12 acres.

“This is a com­pro­mise, which means both sides had to give a lit­tle,” Strickland said.

Both sides had rea­son to give. Let’s re­mem­ber that the cause of this ur­ban clash is the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of both the zoo and the park.

Let’s also re­mem­ber that the prob­lem of the zoo’s over­flow park­ing in the park had vexed three pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions for more than a quar­ter of a cen­tury.

By the time Strickland took of­fice in 2016, the greensward had be­come the scene of pro­fane protests and tree-nap­pings, and the sub­ject of tense pub­lic and so­cial me­dia gath­er­ings.

The City Coun­cil had ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion to cede con­trol of half of the 12acre greensward to the zoo. The Mem­phis Zoo and the Over­ton Park Con­ser­vancy were su­ing each other in court.

Strickland pulled both par­ties into me­di­a­tion. When that process bogged down, he pushed both par­ties to­ward a sen­si­ble “com­pro­mise” plan.

Credit Coun­cil mem­ber Bill Mor­ri­son, who worked be­hind the scenes to get the zoo, the con­ser­vancy, and the coun­cil to ap­prove the plan.

Credit the con­ser­vancy’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Tina Sul­li­van and zoo board cochair Richard Smith for help­ing to find smart, cre­ative, long-term so­lu­tions to prob­lems that af­fect all park users.

Credit the thought­ful, com­mit­ted mem­bers of Over­ton Park Alliance, Park Friends, Cit­i­zens to Pre­serve Over­ton Park, and Stop Hurt­ing Over­ton Park, Get Off Our Lawn, the Free Park­ing Brigade, and other con­cerned cit­i­zens who kept us all fo­cused on the for­est and the trees.

Thanks to Strickland and all who worked for a smart, fair and long-term res­o­lu­tion, zoo lovers soon will find am­ple and paved park­ing easy walk­ing dis­tance to en­trances.

Greensward lovers soon will find the large field be­tween the lake and the dough­boy statue free of cars and pro­test­ers.

Old for­est lovers won’t have to share their path­ways with trams, buses or any mech­a­nized ve­hi­cles.

Park lovers soon will find 13 more acres of park (and park­ing) in the re­claimed south­east cor­ner.

As Ge­orge Kessler said, “There comes a time when de­vel­op­ment must be sub­ject to con­trol when fur­ther growth must be planned such that ur­ban­iza­tion will no longer pro­ceed at the ex­pense of dev­as­tat­ing na­ture.”

That time in Mem­phis is now.

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