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VOL. 125 | NO. 192 | Monday, October 4, 2010



Zoo Just One Part of Overton Park

The Memphis News

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What is the one entity in this city that has stuck to its plan? Which civic project operates on a pay-as-you-go basis?

The Memphis Zoo has done both and now finds itself at an interesting point.

There are a few more new attractions in the pipeline from a 30-year plan that began when the zoo made the transition from a part of city government to a free-standing, self-sustaining institution with a one-of-a-kind mission.

In those 30 years, the job of zoos has also changed to one of conservation and environmental stewardship.

As the next master plan is being developed, this is a perfect time to settle the relationship between the zoo and Overton Park’s old-growth forest.

The city should facilitate these discussions, which certainly involve but are not limited to the zoo. The Memphis Park Services division should be at the table with the zoo’s leadership as should Citizens to Preserve Overton Park.

These essential parties and perhaps a few others can turn what is now a question mark into another transition in which the zoo’s necessary boundaries blend as much as possible into the adjacent parkland.

If there are no plans for wildlife in the Chickasaw Bluff exhibit that would require barriers, the existing fence around the 17 acres should come down and if necessary be replaced with something that preserves a seamless view if not access from the rest of the wooded area.

Memphians use the park for different reasons. They are not competing reasons, just different. Today’s visitor to the zoo was yesterday’s jogger and is tomorrow’s art student.

These and other entities in Overton Park – like Levitt Shell and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art – have proven smaller, specific, private entities can co-exist and flourish.

No other parcel of land in our city is home to so many vital institutions.

The role of city government here should be minimal. But a role as broker for a cohesive relationship among these institutions is essential and the time is right for a vision that can make the park more than the sum of its well-thought-out parts.

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