Friday, August 15, 2008

Into the Woods

This week, Shara Clark and I teamed up to write the Flyer's cover story on the controversy surrounding the old-growth forest in Overton Park.

The Memphis Zoo currently controls 17 acres of old-growth forest that it plans to one day use for a low-impact boardwalk through the woods. But after the zoo bulldozed four similar acres for its new Teton Trek exhibit, local grassroots group Citizens to Preserve Overton Park reformed and asked that the zoo take down their fence and return the 17 acres to public use.

To read the full story, click here.

I get the impression that the zoo — for better or for worse — has a great deal of autonomy. Yes, the zoo is owned by the city (which then contracts its management out to the Memphis Zoological Society for $100,000 a month) and reports to the city's parks division and ultimately, the City Council.

But it also gets a large chunk of its funding from private donors and the City Council doesn't seem all that concerned with what the zoo is doing, as long as it continues to prosper.

CPOP recently went before the council to ask that the zoo's boundary be redrawn and the surviving acres of old-growth forest be protected in perpetuity. They also asked for an update to the Overton Park master plan and the zoo's contract with the now-defunct Memphis Park Commission. They have also followed up with a letter to council members and Mayor Willie Herenton.


Curmudgeonly Grumpus, Jr. said...

It's a precarious balance between development and preservation in Overton Park and it has been since I was a little boy and they were feuding over the I-40 corridor, having already torn down what would have been a delightful architectural extension of Midtown, embodied in the "old growth" bungalows of Binghampton spreading east from the Parkway. I would offer that at least we're now talking about expansion of something more potentially aesthetically pleasing than a freeway, but proponents of the old hardwood forest likely should have an inherent advantage given that the zoo is already well-attended and much-loved (and of this I'm speaking entirely sentimentally, having no real handle on the numbers) because, really, once the Old Forest is depleted we'll have to pick up the old Peter Taylor tome to remember the resplendence that it once was. Maybe we should chain a bear within the park again; that once seemed to be a real crowd-pleaser.

Anonymous said...

Its always been a balance between development and preservation. The problem with "balance" in the case of The Old Forest is that compromise and "balance" mean that something is always given up (more forest land and trees), and the Forest becomes smaller and smaller. If "balance" continues as a policy, then eventually, there is no more Old Forest. At some point, you have to say "enough." Stop. IMO, we have reached that point.