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What Mayor Strickland’s announcement means for Overton Park

Today, Mayor Jim Strickland announced a set of solutions to Overton Park’s traffic and parking issues. We are grateful to Mayor Strickland for his leadership, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners to make Overton Park a welcoming place for the Memphis community for generations to come.

All parties were asked to compromise something to reach a consensus, and in the end we felt we had a proposal that would permanently end the practice of overflow parking on the Greensward. This is a balanced approach that recognizes the value of our historic park and our thriving cultural institutions.

Most of the solutions reached were identified in the Overton Park Transportation and Parking Report that Overton Park Conservancy commissioned earlier this year with the input of the public.

Following the completion of the Zoo parking lot modifications, we anticipate that Greensward parking will end forever, and the Conservancy will begin remediating the area to restore it to its intended use.

This set of solutions lays the groundwork for the long-term success of both Overton Park and its partners. We have seen over the past few years that a rising tide lifts all boats—the Zoo’s success with its new exhibits, the enormous popularity of the Levitt Shell, and the innovative community programming at Brooks Museum of Art have all coincided with a renaissance throughout Overton Park. Now, we have the opportunity to solve a persistent issue, return the Greensward to its intended use, protect the Old Forest from the encroachment of trams, and make improvements on North Parkway that benefit the neighborhood as a whole.

How will this affect the Greensward?
This plan will resolve both the practical and aesthetic conflict between parking and park usage. A small swath of land that’s below the grade of the remainder of the Greensward, and currently dominated by a drainage ditch, will be converted to a few more rows of Zoo parking. Then those spaces will be walled off from the rest of the Greensward with a berm and tree plantings. For the first time in decades, people enjoying the Greensward won’t even be able to see the Zoo parking lot. They’ll just see a park, as George Kessler originally intended.

The impact to the usable portion of the Greensward will be minimal–almost all of the current overflow parking area will be restored to parkland. That third of the Greensward where cars have been sitting on beautiful days for the past few years will be returned to park use–all day, every day.