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2012: The Year in Review

This week marks the last of Overton Park Conservancy’s first full year of managing Overton Park, and has it ever been a busy one!  We’ve had incredible support from volunteers, donors, our board of directors, our partners at the other organizations that call the park home, and every person who comes to the park and adds to its history.  We wanted to run down just a few of the things that your support made possible in 2012.

1. The Conservancy gets rolling by removing invasive plants in the Old Forest.
The Old Forest State Natural Area is home to 126 acres of beautiful native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, herbaceous plants, fungi, and wonders yet to be discovered, but the occasional invaders have moved in over the years.  In January, crews removed large amounts of non-native privet hedge, which chokes out the native understory plants that provide the forest with its biodiversity, as well as threatening the mature trees.  With no natural predators in this part of the world, invasive plants grow unchecked without active management.  We’ll take a second pass at the privet this coming winter.

Overton Bark opens2. Overton Bark lets dogs (and their people) get social.
Our dog park, Overton Bark, opened in June and has been a hub of canine activity every day since.   Hollywood Feed, which funded Overton Bark’s construction, hosts events on the second Saturday of each month that delight humans and dogs alike with costume contests, radio broadcasts, games, and lots of delicious goodies.

3. Runners encounter the softer side of Overton Park.
Thanks to funding from Park Friends and Rhodes College, the limestone trail that circles the interior of the park in a 1.4-mile loop was renovated this fall.  This softer surface provides a more comfortable path for the many 5Ks and fun runs that wind through the park.

Volunteers4. Volunteers help transform the park.
Whether it was spreading mulch at Overton Bark, implementing a new landscape design in the formal gardens, painting picnic tables, or helping with event setup, our volunteers came out in force this year.  The Conservancy has a very small staff, so our work just isn’t possible without park lovers pitching in.  You can read one volunteer’s account of her experience in the park at Confessions of a Volunteer.

5. Our new restrooms leave us flushed with pride.
Doesn’t everyone prefer a real working restroom, with a sink and a hand dryer, to a port-a-john?  We thought so.  That’s why in November we opened restrooms at the Rainbow Lake Pavilion, and we’ll be doing the same at the East Parkway picnic and playground area in 2013.

6. It’s all about building connections.
Everywhere you look in Overton Park, connections are being built and strengthened.  We have a great working relationship with our partners at the Memphis Zoo, the Levitt Shell, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis College of Art, and the Overton Park Golf Clubhouse.  Together, we’re all working to strengthen the connections between Overton Park and the rest of the city, whether that’s as part of the Overton/Broad connector on the Shelby Farms Greenline or the installation of a long-needed sidewalk across from the zoo entrance in partnership with the Evergreen neighborhood.  Improving bike and pedestrian access to the park is a major part of our project plans going forward.

Brian and Jennifer Tolleson were married at the Higbee Memorial this year.

7. Special events keep Overton Park at the center of Memphis culture.
2012 saw over 60 special events and pavilion rentals at the park.  We hosted 20 runs, walks, and bike rides (including a portion of the St. Jude Marathon), and had a wide variety of special events.  From a Black Artist Showcase and a Purple Heart Ceremony at Veterans Plaza to Rock and Romp in the Greensward to several weddings, Overton Park was never short on activity.

8. A Magical Night at Overton Park lights up the formal gardens.
The Conservancy held its first major fundraiser in November, and it was a dazzling display of beautiful decor, delicious food, and great music.  More importantly, 230 guests helped to raise more than $11,000 for the renovation of Rainbow Lake Playground.

Tree planting9. 400 trees and shrubs are planted throughout the park.
A generous partnership of donors, landscapers, and a local nursery combines to replenish the park’s trees, some of which had been felled recently by age and harsh weather.   Dozens of species are chosen and planted with an eye toward the visual picture they’ll paint as they grow.

10. Ground breaks on an exciting upgrade for Rainbow Lake Playground.
The aging playground is getting more adventurous, with new equipment designed to encourage imagination and provide a strong connection to the adjacent Old Forest.   The kids are getting pretty excited.

So…what’s next?
We’re planning on another year full of positive activity in the park.  Among the things in the works are a new pedestrian and bike entrance on the East Parkway side of the park, installation of a new system of park signage, more fun family events, the launch of Team Overton Park (a group of volunteers who will provide regular attention to the park), and the reopening of Rainbow Lake Playground in late spring.

All of these projects have one thing in common: they don’t happen without you!  Make your tax-deductible year-end gift to Overton Park Conservancy today, and help us get a jump on next year’s projects.