Today Mayor Jim Strickland has released the final version of a plan to reconfigure the Zoo’s parking lot in order to permanently end overflow parking on the Greensward. The final plan reflects a compromise solution that was negotiated between the Memphis Zoo, Overton Park Conservancy, and the City of Memphis in 2016, which was ratified by a resolution of the Memphis City Council. It incorporates feedback gathered through several rounds of public input, while adhering to the Council’s mandate to add 415 new parking spaces to the Zoo’s existing lot.
Some of the concerns expressed by park stakeholders that you’ll see incorporated into the plan are as follows:
- The perimeter drive aisle has been moved northward so that visitors enjoying the Greensward will not be immediately adjacent to moving or idling vehicles.
- The parking lot will be screened by a berm planted with vegetation to provide a visual and physical barrier between the parking lot and the Greensward.
- The wide pedestrian promenade between the Greensward and the parking lot has been removed.
Earlier iterations of the plan were also modified to address concerns around encroachment into the area adjacent to the formal gardens and to reduce the size of the parking spaces.
We acknowledge that the parking solution presented today requires the conversion of approximately 2.4 acres of parkland into parking. We feel this loss deeply, while acknowledging that a permanent resolution to this issue required compromise from all parties. What Overton Park gains in return is the permanent protection of approximately one-third of the Greensward that’s been used for parking for decades—recreational space that is currently inaccessible to the public for more than 60 days every year. After this project is completed, the Conservancy will undertake remediation of the Greensward, refreshing the grass and working to reverse soil compaction. No longer will families and friends have to share space with cars on every beautiful day—they’ll be able to use the space to relax, play, and enjoy their time together.
The outcome of this plan will allow the Conservancy and the community to focus on building a vibrant, well-maintained, and free public park for every Memphian. It allows us to continue to work through a long-term management plan for the Old Forest, to build a vision of how a reclaimed General Services area at Poplar & East Parkway will become a vital part of the park and the community, and also to support our partners in the repurposing of Brooks Museum and Rust Hall into new public amenities that complement the park experience.
The long-standing practice of parking on the Greensward has been a complex challenge to address, requiring years of debate, mediation, negotiation, fundraising, and multiple rounds of conceptual design. We’re grateful to Mayor Strickland and his team for investing time and resources into finding a workable solution, and to more than 1,000 donors who contributed to the campaign to fund the plan. We’re also grateful to the hundreds of community members who took time to attend public meetings, respond to surveys, and share your feedback during the development of this plan.
The most effective long-term protection for this historic civic asset is a strong Conservancy with an active and engaged base of supporters. With so many opportunities on the horizon to shape the park’s future, we look forward to working with you to maintain this beautiful, safe, and welcoming place at the heart of our community.