The Commercial Appeal Editorial Board
Mayor Jim Strickland can add Saved the Greensward to his growing list of “brilliant at the basics” accomplishments.
The city’s final plan for expanded zoo parking will protect nearly all of Overton Park’s expansive open lawn while increasing parking capacity at the zoo by nearly 50 percent.
Even more importantly, the plan will preserve the historic, aesthetic and recreational value and purpose of the park designed more than a century ago by landscape architect George Kessler.
By 2020, the sight of hundreds of cars parked intrusively on the grass — and the rising threat of surrendering the greensward to asphalt — will be found only in Facebook memories.
It’s a shame the plan will require paving 2.4-acres of the lawn’s remote northeast corner. But zoo parking has been filling up to half of the greensward’s 12 acres.
“This is a compromise, which means both sides had to give a little,” Strickland said.
Both sides had reason to give. Let’s remember that the cause of this urban clash is the growing popularity of both the zoo and the park.
Let’s also remember that the problem of the zoo’s overflow parking in the park had vexed three previous administrations for more than a quarter of a century.
By the time Strickland took office in 2016, the greensward had become the scene of profane protests and tree-nappings, and the subject of tense public and social media gatherings.
Strickland pulled both parties into mediation. When that process bogged down, he pushed both parties toward a sensible “compromise” plan.
Credit Council member Bill Morrison, who worked behind the scenes to get the zoo, the conservancy, and the council to approve the plan.
Credit the conservancy’s executive director Tina Sullivan and zoo board co-chair Richard Smith for helping to find smart, creative, long-term solutions to problems that affect all park users.
Thanks to Strickland and all who worked for a smart, fair and long-term resolution, zoo lovers soon will find ample and paved parking easy walking distance to entrances.
Greensward lovers soon will find the large field between the lake and the doughboy statue free of cars and protesters.
Old forest lovers won’t have to share their pathways with trams, buses or any mechanized vehicles.
Park lovers soon will find 13 more acres of park (and parking) in the reclaimed southeast corner.
As George Kessler said, “There comes a time when development must be subject to control when further growth must be planned such that urbanization will no longer proceed at the expense of devastating nature.”
That time in Memphis is now.