Greensward Crowd Limits Zoo Overflow Parking

By Bill Dries

The first Saturday of the spring in Overton Park drew a crowd on the park Greensward that outnumbered the cars parked on the Greensward.

And the group of several hundred park-goers blocked the overflow zoo parking on the Greensward briefly Saturday, March 26.

No arrests were made as Memphis police talked with protesters.

Over the previous two springs of protests in the park, some protesters have blocked the gravel driveway from the paved zoo parking lot onto the Greensward on several occasions.

Those standoffs have always been resolved without police making arrests. In many cases, zoo parking on the Greensward was stopped until those blocking the driveway left after an hour or two.

In this case, the numbers blocking the driveway were the most serious protest since the Memphis City Council voted March 1 to give control of the Greensward to the zoo.

And zoo parking again moved into other areas including the formal gardens of the park. On previous weekends, the zoo staff has directed cars to park around protesters who aren’t blocking the driveway.

The area of the Greensward marked by orange cones for overflow parking remained Saturday about where the area was before the council’s March decision.

Since the council vote, the zoo has taken a greater part of the area for overflow parking moving past the Doughboy statue. And the parking has increasingly filled in all the way to the western border of Rainbow Lake.

The Overton Park Conservancy and the Memphis Zoo are participating in a private mediation process pushed by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland as a long-term solution to the controversy.