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Zone 1 Survey Results – Part 1

Back in November, we asked you to help us envision a future for what we’re calling Zone 1 of Overton Park: the attractions on the East Parkway side. Along with the playground and picnic area and the Bike Gate plaza, we’re developing plans for a 13-acre parcel on the park’s southeast corner that has housed City of Memphis facilities for decades. More than 1,000 people gave us a wealth of ideas and opinions, and we’re sharing those results with you now.

Our design and business planning teams are currently working to develop concepts that incorporate this feedback into some exciting options. They are navigating the desire not to over-commercialize with the reality that the park (and the renovation of this space) requires a source of revenue that it does not currently have. Balancing these two values means looking around the country for success stories while carefully assessing what the Memphis community needs. Your thoughtful feedback has been so valuable in that assessment, and we’re excited to share some design concepts with you in the coming months.

We’ll publish your survey responses in two separate posts. Today’s is a high-level look at ideas for the entire space, and the second post will focus on potential amenities in the 13-acre parcel.

Prefer a text-only version of this post? Click here.

How often do you visit Overton Park?

The word cloud for question two reveals a lot of love for the Old Forest, as the most-mentioned source of joy in the park.

What one thing do you enjoy most about Overton Park?

Many people mentioned continuing to work toward making Overton Park more accessible for all visitors.

What is one word you would like to use to describe Overton Park in the future?

For this question, scores were tabulated by where respondents ranked each of their three answers, with #1-ranked choices given a higher score.

Which three of these goals sound most important to you?

A sampling of other answers to the above question:

  • “Recreational areas e.g. volleyball courts, bocce courts, horseshoe pits, etc. for bring your own equipment. Nice restrooms. Unique playground. Maybe use greenhouse to grow and sell plants and flowers. Gift shop/restaurant/snack bar would be nice.”
  • “I think it’s important that people learn that this isn’t simply a park. At best, it’s a snapshot of the ecosystem that existed before the city itself did and still grows in and around the city in ways we don’t always notice.”
  • “Something new that the park doesn’t have – outdoor exercise equipment, meditation/brainstorming spaces, rotating art installations, interactive art, etc.”
  • “Overton Park should use this site to focus on a new mission that ordains realigning the entire city with nature. This site should not just be concerned with developing amenities. Memphis needs a leader to bring the vision of an ecologically sustainable city to fruition. Specifically, the park should focus development of this site on teaching and promoting the idea of ecosystem services, which is a scientific field detailing how urban forests can promote healthier people, improve safety, lower infrastructure costs and add environmentally friendly jobs to our economy. It should focus on teaching and helping create equal access to urban ecosystem services as impoverished communities often have poorer access to these benefits. I think the park could use this space to create an anchor point within the city that would expand on a mission that could transform Memphis into a premier ecological city.”
  • “More family reunion outdoor rental space opportunities, connect 13 acres with rest of park visually.”
  • “Please nothing ‘commercial’ or with branding as these don’t last in a place as historical and environmental as our park.”
  • “Would love to keep the greenhouses for potential pop up events, farmers markets or horticulture based opportunities.”
  • “The entire East and Southeast side needs a pedestrian entrance including a walk way around it. Accessibility for pedestrians is huge.”
  • “Keep things quiet and peaceful.”
  • “Keep it busy. As many community engagement programs as possible. The more use it gets, the better its future is.”

What are the most effective ways Overton Park Conservancy can remove barriers to accessing the amenities in Zone 1?

A sampling of other answers to the above question:

  • “Educational signs and rules for people to be clean and respect others and nature.”
  • “Work with city planning of areas around the park to aggressively include reserving linear green spaces that tie into the perimeter of the park from neighborhoods and commercial developments.”
  • “Free cultural events throughout the year.”
  • “Convenient and attractive event space building (old WPA building) with ample parking, shared by general park users.”
  • “Basic sidewalks connecting it to surrounding neighborhoods. This is so basic but y’all don’t have enough or any in some areas.”
  • “Expanded and clear bus route options. I believe bus routes exist to the park, but they are not emphasized as a hub.”
  • “Develop attractions that will entice those that visited the park for other reasons to venture to zone 1.”
  • “I love how well-used this area is by Memphians. It seems like every weekend, there’s a large family gathering or party there. While I have never rented park facilities, it would be important to me to know that affordability is designed in to maintain the space’s attraction to a diverse group of Memphians. Maybe you are already doing free educational programming and partnerships so pardon me if I am uninformed, but those seem like good ways to connect Memphis from a young age who might not organically engage with the park regularly.”

What are the biggest challenges in converting this corner to parkland?

A sampling of other answers to the above question:

  • “Raising money to reclaim the space to its natural habitat.”
  • “Cleaning up leakage from the fueling station and spilled chemicals.”
  • “Poplar Ave and East Parkway are very busy and loud.”
  • “Not overdoing it. The Greensward is home to so many activities, games, picnics, strolling, enjoying the outdoors. A lawn in that southwest corner would be nice.”
  • “Providing adequate parking is a concern but it needs to not take away from the natural areas and other more important goals. How to provide parking that does not take away from other needs?”
  • “Trying to balance need for funding with as little development of buildings in the area as possible.”
  • “Setting up this ‘dead’ corner into the flow of activity in the park.”
  • “The best parks I go to in other cities are maintained and I know it costs money. That’s the #1 issue.”

Finally, we asked an open-ended question: What, if anything, would you change about the East Parkway playground, pavilion, and picnic area? Here are some of the answers.

  • “Add a few smaller picnic tables and add some outdoor chess/board game tables.”
  • “More lighting.”
  • “More art/statues. Additional park bench/other seating. Larger/improved bathrooms. Wifi hotspots (public).”
  • “Improved bathrooms, expanded playgrounds.”
  • “Barriers to keep people from driving across the grass to park by the tables.”
  • “Nothing! I like the neighborhood park feel in our city’s primary park. We also have the more modern presentation on the west side, and I appreciate having area that is less populated and bustling.”
  • “Everything! Totally outdated!”
  • “Make it more colorful – painted benches or install something historical about the women who helped stop the highway from going right through the park. I’ve always thought that location deserved more of a marking since people coming off I-240 see it head on – there could be something beautiful like a butterfly, owl, with tulip poplar leaves sculpture or painting on a sign to represent the park and then some information on the back for park goers to read and appreciate.”
  • “More flowers and beautiful trees that blossom in the spring. Also, educational exhibits throughout the park area, like an outdoor museum.”
  • “It is an underappreciated part of the park. The enormous picnic tables, trees and connection to trails are outstanding. I would like to see it more connected to other parts of the park through trails, wayfinding and programming.”
  • “More seating and interactive structures.”
  • “Make it one-way with CLEARLY defined entrance and exit.”
  • “The parking lot is around the old pavilion and moving into the deeper part of the park. If parking could be around the edges and the pavilion area reclaimed for lawn with just enough sidewalk to make it accessible for all, that would be a huge benefit.”
  • “Make sure it links to the rest of the neighborhood across East Parkway–each traffic light should also have some kind of pedestrian crossing that’s not just lines on asphalt. A clear walking connection to the Hampline and Broad Street (signs, etc.) is essential. Also, make the playground a real impressive one–right now it’s pretty blah and not really a reason to go there.”
  • “More rental areas, improved playground, modernize fitness walkway, add fitness equipment that doesn’t detract from natural look or impede renters.”

You’ll find Part 2 of the survey results here.