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Why does it cost $1,000 a day to operate Overton Park?

Redeemer Presbyterian Church sponsorshipYou may have noticed some new signs appearing in the park recently giving special thanks to businesses, organizations, and individuals who have generously contributed to park operations. The signs include some eye-catching numbers, and we’ve gotten some questions about them. “It really costs $1,000 a day to operate the park? Where does that money go?” That’s a great question!

The $1,000 a day figure comes from Overton Park Conservancy’s annual operations budget, which is around $360,000. That’s the money we spend on our managed area of the park—which encompasses the Greensward, Veterans Plaza, the Old Forest, and the East Parkway and Rainbow Lake playground and picnic areas. The bulk of that expense is for groundskeeping, including mowing, landscaping and gardening, leaf removal, etc.

The Conservancy took over management of the park from the City’s Division of Parks & Neighborhoods in 2012. Prior to the signing of our ten-year management agreement, the City was spending about $150,000 a year on mowing alone, and had closed all the restrooms and replaced them with portable toilets. Because we contract with a landscaping company, we’ve been able to reduce the annual mowing fee to around $125,000, as well as adding more frequent mowing to the schedule. We re-opened restrooms at both Rainbow Lake Pavilion and East Parkway Pavilion, and cleaning and stocking those runs about $60,000 per year (as well as extra expenses when they are vandalized). The remainder of those operating funds go toward cleaning up tree debris after storms, maintenance on projects like Rainbow Lake Playground and Overton Bark, removing invasive species in the Old Forest, keeping things like mulch and limestone refreshed, and general repairs.

We receive a $150,000 annual contribution from the City. With our fundraising capacity, we turn that allocation into almost $1 million per year, which includes staff salaries, the insurance for the park, office rent and other administrative expenses, capital projects like the Bike Gate plaza and path, and all the operations expenses listed above. We also assumed the administrative task from the City of renting park pavilions for events. For the price the City was paying for mowing, they’ve gotten a higher level of maintenance, a reduced administrative and operating burden, and multiple capital projects that have enhanced the park and made it more welcoming.

Many thanks to our friends at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Park Friends, who have each sponsored a day at the park this season. Baker Donelson is generously sponsoring this entire week! This program is open to organizations as well as individuals. If you have a special occasion to commemorate, a corporate event planned for the park, or just want to show your support, click here to learn more.