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VOL. 127 | NO. 107 | Friday, June 01, 2012

Dog Park at Heart of Overton Park Changes

By Bill Dries

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Overton Park Conservancy leaders formally open a dog park Saturday, June 2, with a corporate sponsor paying for the undertaking, a new executive director on the job for about a month and plenty of maintenance work under way in other parts of the Midtown park.

Trish and Jamie Lambert walk their dogs Mister Big, Micah and Miska around the pond at Overton Park, a daily gathering spot for area dog lovers.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

Meanwhile, the conservancy has funding from the state and a nonprofit foundation for a plaza entrance on the park’s eastern side and a link to park trails from the Broad Avenue Arts District.

Overton Bark is 1.3 acres that solves a long-standing but low-level source of conflict between those who brings dogs to the park’s largest greenspace for the open spaces and those who come to the park for the same open space but don’t want to interact with dogs not on a leash.

Hollywood Feed funded construction of the dog park, designed by Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects Inc., which is divided into two sections – “a smaller area for the smaller dogs who might be afraid of the larger dogs and then a larger area for everyone else,” said Tina Sullivan, executive director of the conservancy since May 1.

The dog park is by the Rainbow Lake playground and pavilion, which are next on the conservancy’s list for renovation including restrooms and the addition of picnic tables.

“A dog park came up consistently in the survey results,” Sullivan said of a survey by the conservancy undertaken last year. “The group that got the conservancy off the ground did a lot of research with other parks around the country and found that dog parks were universally some of the areas that saw the most park traffic. We knew it would be a popular destination.”

It is also another move to better define the greenspace off the Poplar Avenue entrance. The conservancy is endorsing separate efforts by The Memphis Zoo to build a 500-car parking garage on zoo property that will end the practice of parking cars on the north end of the greenspace when the zoo parking lot is full.

Earlier this month, the conservancy secured an $88,400 state grant for a bike and pedestrian path into the park off East Parkway where Sam Cooper Boulevard ends.

The conservancy also has a grant for the project from First Tennessee Foundation for an undisclosed amount.

“You’ll be able to go from that intersection to the internal park road system. Currently you see bicycles going across the grass there. It’s sort of the logical extension of the Shelby Farms Greenline,” Sullivan said.

The state grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is for the path itself.

“The First Tennessee Foundation grant is supporting the project,” she said. “It also is funding a piece of public art, which will be a bike-themed entry gate, a plaza, where once you cross the crosswalk you have a little roomier area to rest with some benches, a water fountain, some landscaping – to really make it a grand entrance that is pedestrian- and bike-oriented.”

The crosswalk across the busy intersection will also be restriped as part of the project.

The park project links up with an arts district to the east in which business owners have already marked off their own bicycle and parking lanes. The district runs east from East Parkway to Tillman Street, which is the western end of the Shelby Farms Greenline.

The business association, Livable Memphis, the Hyde Foundation, Loeb Properties and the Aerobic Cruisers bicycle company have partnered to promote and develop the connector.

The work crews near the dog park working to restore part of a wall by Lick Creek in May were not with the conservancy but with the city of Memphis. The park remains property of the city.

But the conservancy has a long-term contract with the city to manage and operate the park and finance that and improvements with private donations. The city share of funding is for maintenance with city crews maintaining roads in the park and other utility areas.

That city share remains the same and is less than the city was spending on the park before the conservancy contract.

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