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2013: The Year in Review

2013 was Overton Park Conservancy’s second full year of work in the park, and there was never a dull moment. Here are some of our favorite memories from a banner year in the park.

Rainbow Lake PlaygroundRainbow Lake Playground is the new place to be. After months of anticipation, kids finally got their first chance to explore the new Rainbow Lake Playground in June. It was an immediate hit–from tiny kids just learning to use the mini-climbing wall to middle school groups coming over for lunch and everyone in between, the playground has been loved in a way we never anticipated. And with the playground’s latest addition, a magical, musical mushroom sculpture, the playground became an even more unique place to spend a beautiful afternoon in Memphis.

We asked, you answered. This summer we launched the latest edition of the Speak Up Survey, which invites you to give your opinions on what’s working and not working in the park, as well as a couple of specific projects we’re considering. So far 340 of you have responded, and your comments have been inspiring and enlightening. But we need many more of you to participate in order to measure a true consensus. So if you haven’t done it already, take the survey!

Eight tiny reindeerTeam Overton Park observed and reported. You’ve seen them in their Team Overton Park t-shirts: the more than 50 park visitors who regularly check in with us about what they see and hear in the park. They keep us informed on a daily basis, about common questions they hear from other visitors, repairs that need to be made, and the fun things they see happening around the park. They also send us beautiful and funny photos, including shots of certain very special visitors. (Thanks to Kathy and Richard for this shot of their Christmas morning walk.)

We showed the Old Forest some love. During the winter, our crews at Echo Systems removed another massive amount of invasive Chinese privet hedge, completing a full sweep of the forest over the past two years. We still have some isolated patches that we’ll work to remove, but overall, visibility in the forest is higher and the native plants that had been outcompeted by fast-growing privet are a whole lot happier. In addition, a couple of weeks ago we began adding official Tennessee State Natural Area boundary markers to the edges of the forest, so there will be no doubt you’re in a protected space as you walk through the woods.

A Day of MerrymakingYou made our events merry and magical. Our free family festival in June, A Day of Merrymaking, brought more than 2,500 people to the park for acrobatics, dog agility courses, food trucks, hula hooping competitions, tons of local crafters and merchants, great music, and so much more. (Mark your calendars for the second annual event, on June 7, 2014.) And in November, you helped us raise $17,000 at A Magical Night at Overton Park, which turned the formal gardens into a glamorous place for celebration.

Kids read a tale on a trail. It was the year of the book at Overton Park, with not one but TWO Little Free Libraries installed at the playgrounds. Now whenever they come to play, kids can bring a book and take a book. And at East Parkway, they could walk and read at the same time thanks to the new Storywalk that’s been installed along the path. There’s been a new book installed recently, so if you haven’t been in a while, head on back!

Bike Gate sculptureWe got very excited about a tower of bikes. We spent the year documenting the creation and construction of Tylur French’s Bike Gate sculpture, which is just days away from being installed at the new bike plaza on East Parkway. More than 300 bikes, many of which have made numerous circuits through Overton Park in their more rideable days, came together to make what we’re sure will be a stunning tribute to the people who are transforming Memphis into a more bikeable, walkable city.

You told us your stories. This year through our Overton Park Stories program, we heard about everything from the first production at the Memphis Open Air Theatre in the 1930s to a first kiss in the Old Forest. We laughed, we cried, we remembered all the reasons why this park is an essential part of the fabric of our city. If you’ve had a memorable moment (or many) in the park, we hope you’ll consider sharing it with us at the link above.

Pac-Man at Overton ParkAnd last but not least…
Pac-Man came to visit. Did you know that Pac-Man could be summoned via the precise arrangement of osage oranges? Well, now you do. (Our hearty thanks to the anonymous artist who brought enjoyment to people the world over with this creation, thanks to the magic of Twitter.)

Up next: The bike plaza will open in a few short months, and we’re going to have a party to celebrate it! Details as they develop. Plus, we received a subplanning grant from the Mid-South Regional Greenprint & Sustainability Plan to improve bike and pedestrian access to the park. In plain English: we’re going to be making the park entrances better, safer, and more attractive, and we’re going to ask you how you think we should go about it. So keep your eyes on our website for news about when and how you can give your input on these and other projects. If you want to be the very first to know, follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

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