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Zone 1 Survey Results – Part 2

Last week we shared the first set of results from our survey about the future of the east side of the park. The first set of questions covered the entirety of the east side, while the set we’re presenting today covers specific features that might be part of the southeast corner as it transforms back into parkland.

The data in this post is presented in image format. Prefer a text-only version? Click here.

What trails would you like to see in Zone 1?

Some comments on this idea:

  • “Running trails either paved or unpaved connected with the rest of the park. The park needs a trail or sidewalk that rings the entire park.”
  • “I think hiking and bike trails like the rest of the forest would be good. Boardwalks seem like an expensive unnecessary idea.”
  • “If there could be lighted trails with bump-outs for exercise groups that run, then stop for pushups or jumping jacks or whatever, that would be astounding, though I know the lighting would be expensive and difficult to maintain.”
  • “A sculpture trail like at Cheekwood in Nashville.”
  • “As a biker I would love more bike trails, but also recognize the importance of trails that are accessible to all people.”
  • “Slow space and stopping locations for engagement along the trail, such as benches, chairs, tables, community gardens, educational boards that introduce plant species, public art.”
  • “I feel unpaved is a very nice escape from a paved city. Recently the gravel trails in the Big River Crossing in West Memphis were paved, and there was HEAVY backlash by bikers, runners, walkers, that were going there because it was unpaved. The general consensus of most comments were ‘we can ride/walk/run on asphalt anywhere, this used to be a place we could get off road.’ I think the same thing would happen if the gravel loop in Overton was to be paved. It’s such an oasis. I would like to see more of that.”

What natural features would you like to see in Zone 1?

Some comments on this idea:

  • “Anything water–creeks, waterfalls, streams.”
  • “Old growth forest is already well represented within the park. A well-managed grassland or meadow would be an appropriate addition. Look to partners like the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative at Austin Peay, the mission of which is to focus on conservation and restoration of native grasslands in our area. Pollinators are a popular focus in conservation currently.”
  • “Add the approved 2nd Greensward from the 1988 Master Plan.”
  • “Expanding forest is important but I hope there is a balance. We need forest but open green lawns are nice, too.”
  • “Berms and or plants that serve as a barrier between the park space and the high traffic and noisy streets, East Pkwy and Poplar, would make the space more enjoyable.”
  • “‘Edge’ habitat – pollinator-friendly plants where ‘filler’ plantings might typically go in.”
  • “Boulders for kids to climb/jump. Creek or stream for them to play in (other than the drainage ditches).”

What structures would you like to see in Zone 1?

Some comments on this idea:

  • “In what condition is the WPA-era building? Focus on an adaptive reuse of that first as educational/visitor space. Preserve the existing greenhouses for education and park operations.”
  • “Maintaining the greenhouses to create a community or teaching garden would be amazing!”
  • “Simple indoor rental space, indoor greenhouse community gardens.”
  • “I would like to see a domed botanical center like Des Moines, Iowa has. It provides year round programs, you can go there in all kinds of weather and spend time wandering through a beautiful tropical environment, and it is also rented out for weddings in the domed area plus it has areas for meetings.”
  • “I’m not real keen on structures, but if there HAS to be one, it should likely be something that feeds money to the Conservancy to help run the park. Restaurant, food vendor, coffee shop.”
  • “I wish Memphis had a big public pavilion where people who just go to sit outside and people watch at sunset like other big cities. Perhaps it would have a big series of fountains or reflection ponds (maybe something like the Temple of Debod). I like Overton Park but to me, it has no natural center point for gathering.”
  • “I really hope a restaurant isn’t built in Zone 1. A restaurant fits better on the west side at Brooks or the old college of art.”
  • “I think a Nature Center could include an indoor classroom (for use all year round) as well as an outdoor classroom space.”
  • “This doesn’t feel like the right space for a welcome center (at the edge of the park).”
  • “I envision a food truck court surrounding a café focused on international and local Memphis specialties (e.g., Greek, Mexican, and Memphis BBQ on any given day) to invite cultural inclusiveness every day to the park. Almost like a small festival every day.”

What active recreation elements would you like to see in Zone 1?

Some responses that came up frequently:

  • Disc golf course
  • Pickleball courts
  • Tennis courts
  • Skatepark
  • Fitness stations
  • Climbing wall
  • Second dog park, or relocate the existing one to this corner
  • Do not turn this into a sportsplex; it’s duplicative of other facilities and ruins the contemplative character of the park

What events would you like to see in Zone 1?

Some comments on this idea:

  • “Maybe set up to serve as a regular ‘race-start’ location with amenities for the organizations putting on the races or fun runs.”
  • “Already mentioned weddings previously. A dedicated space that works for these venues, as well as birthday parties, family reunions is a great way to generate income, get people to come to the park.”
  • “Wine and food/music festivals, bigger farmers market, food truck gatherings.”
  • “I think bigger events should be saved for other areas of the park.”

What type of garden would you like to see in Zone 1?

Some comments on this idea:

  • “Gardens should be an integral component that can transition from forest to interpretive to educational.”
  • “Pollinator-friendly garden. Maybe even bee hives?”
  • “A child size plant labyrinth, a kinder garden.”
  • “The above mentioned options are lovely, but we have the Botanic Gardens and Dixon for these.”
  • “It would be nice to label trees throughout the park. I see no need to create a space in this zone for this purpose.”
  • “A community garden sounds like a bad idea. How would co ownership work with limited plots? Who gets the bounty?”
  • “Community vegetable garden is so important for this area! Combining a community garden with educational opportunities with nearby schools is an idea.”
  • “Outdoor beer garden and food truck stop. Find a way to bring in a revenue generating stream.”

What commercial activities would you like to see in Zone 1?

Among those who left additional comments to this question, the most popular response was “none,” which didn’t surprise us–we know that there is a strong desire among park supporters to focus on the natural aspects of the park. We also know that it will take considerable funds to convert a 13-acre vehicle maintenance facility into a place people will want to visit, and that our current business model (which relies on private donations for 85% of the costs of operating the park) is not sustainable in the long term. That’s why we’re exploring thoughtful ways to generate revenue. That means seeing what amenities you might be interested in anyway (from recreational equipment rental, to space for weddings and birthday parties, to art installations that are sponsored by companies or individuals) and determining whether they will help create a revenue stream that supports the park. We have to be creative about the park’s future in order to prevent a return to the recent past, when public dollars simply didn’t stretch far enough to give the park the care our community deserves.

Don’t picture a fast food franchise…we’re looking for something memorable and unique that enhances the Overton Park experience, and it’s so valuable to know what you envision that to be.

Which features would you like to see in Zone 1?

Some comments on this question:

  • “I think we have enough ‘open green space.’ I want more engagement, more interest than just another field.”
  • “One big shortcoming in the park in general is the availability of drinking water and restrooms. None of the present water fountains work, and the only two restrooms (not enough) are not open presently because of Covid. As someone who includes the park in my regular 8-10 mile walks, this is a bit of a shortcoming.”
  • “Peace Garden and small outdoor covered meeting space for groups of 10 to 45.”
  • “The treehouse idea would be great as a children’s play area or as the central or main feature of the children’s playground. I would prefer this to a traditional children’s playground.”
  • “Some parks have a very fine netting to provide additional shade without paving or preventing natural grass and plants from growing underneath. This would add comfort for hot months.”

Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide their thoughts and ideas!