Friday, May 30, 2008

Dream of a million kites

It was warm and windy today. Midway on our walk to the East Parkway playground, Rosa and I stopped to admire a kite soaring over the Greensward:

Little sister just remember,
As you wander through the blue,
The little kite that you sent flying
On a sunny afternoon,
Made of something light as nothing,
Made of joy that matters too,
How the little dreams we dream
Are all we can really do.
-Patti Griffin
Back beyond that nylon kite, about a dozen Mississippi kites swirled above Rainbow Lake, chowing down on bugs:

Here's a grainy zoom view of the bird on the upper left:

Once you learn that outline, you won't forget it. It means that summer has arrived in Memphis.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hand me down my walking shoes

It's a growing green riot outside right now -- get out there and soak it up! Join us at 10:00am this Saturday, May 31, for a leisurely 1.5-mile nature walk in the Old Forest of Overton Park. We meet at the Lick Creek pedestrian bridge, next to the Rainbow Lake parking lot. Email Naomi if you have any questions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Just googling around . . .

I ran across this interesting essay that was published two years ago in a Seventh Day Adventist magazine. The author, John McLarty, gives an insightful child's-eye view of that first fight to preserve Overton Park. He also links the secular preservation of parkland with the religious preservation of a Sabbath day.

The following paragraphs stood out for me, but the whole article is worth reading:

Nearly everyone I knew was outraged by this woman’s opposition to the park. Memphis desperately needed an expressway. And the park route was the most obvious, least expensive, and most politically feasible. Figuring it was just a matter of time before common sense prevailed, the state moved ahead with construction. They built the freeway to within a couple of miles of the park on the east, and purchased the right-of-way and demolished houses right up to the park border.

. . .
The court battles dragged on for 20 years. The park won. There is a gap in the interstate in the middle of Memphis. Interstate 40 is routed around Memphis on the northern beltway. Most of those who 30 years ago thought the old woman was crazy, now realize the wisdom of her opposition to cutting up the park with an expressway. When they take their grandkids to the zoo, they’re glad it’s not bordered by a thundering highway. It’s good that the view from the art academy north does not feature fences, exit signs and passing semis. And it’s right that when you golf or take your kids for a walk in the woods, you hear birds, not traffic.

. . .
Open space in a city must be fiercely defended or it will be used for “more productive” purposes. Without champions to stop it, the press of development will occupy every square inch, leaving the city terribly impoverished.

. . .
The frenzied pace of our culture is pressuring us to build multiple freeways through the few open spaces left in our lives. The requirements of commerce and personal achievement threaten to completely dominate the human landscape. Don’t let it happen in your life. Keep the freeway out of the park, and not just for yourself. Our persistence in park-tending will ensure that the woods, zoo, duck pond and picnic tables -- the tranquillity -- remain available for our children, grandchildren and neighbors. Our stubborn Sabbath keeping serves to preserve a priceless sanctuary, an irreplaceable park in time, for generations to come.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In the news...

RSVP interviewed Glenn Cox, president of Park Friends Inc., for the magazine's June edition. The text is not available online yet, but it's an interesting read. Here's an excerpt:

RSVP: Have any of PFI's plans been met with disapproval?

Cox: I think if anything, the recent zoo expansion has been met with a lot of mixed reviews from our members and from the community at large. We weren't strong and heavy-handed in our approach to the zoo -- the zoo is actually on our board -- so we missed it. We wished we'd talked to them before the trees had come down. The trees were down by the time we realized what was going on, so our best course of action is to address the future of the park including the zoo's property. Whether we agree or disagree, it's happened. There's a new advocacy group that's going on in the park right now, and we've met with them and know them personally, and their approach to this is much different than ours -- much stronger -- and we welcome them into the park. This is one of the biggest issues we've recently faced in the park and we're trying to look ahead and figure out how we can preserve and protect it for the future. If anything happens in the future, I'll view it as our fault, and we should have been at the helm. This served as a good wakeup call.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Be there or be non-circular

  • Who: CPOP + y'all.
  • What: Public meeting to explain why we think the Memphis Zoo should stop destroying the Old Forest of Overton Park.
  • When: Thursday, June 5, 7:00pm-8:00pm.
  • Where: Blount Auditorium, Buckman Hall, Rhodes College.
  • Why: Blogs are fun and nifty and whatnot, but nothing beats that good old-fashioned human interaction.
  • How: Free child care!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Teton Clearcut Progress Report

You can't really tell from this photo, snapped on the fly Monday morning, but the crew is working hard at the Construction Site Formerly Known As Old Growth Forest:

A section of that green screen had been sliced open for awhile, but it was recently tacked back up by the construction workers. You can see that someone took care to match up the graffiti letters properly, which I thought was sweet.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Them wild-eyed birds that had been away

The kites are back in town!

A few weeks ago, the Mississippi kites returned from winter vacation in South America to grace our skies with their sleek silhouettes.

For many years, kites have nested in the Old Forest along the eastern shoreline of Rainbow Lake and it looks like they're doing the same this year.

This is an excellent spot for nesting because it provides quick access to the many insects that fly above the Greensward and Rainbow Lake. That's right -- bugs are the primary food of this amazing predator!

I couldn't find a good copyright-free image of a kite flying, but just look for the crow-sized falcon with the perfect triangular tail. You can't miss 'em.

For more info, John James Audubon's description of Mississippi kites is absolutely fascinating, and a vivid illustration of why I loathe that man.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday fun

Sifting through older photos today, I ran across two oddball shots that I haven't been able to work into a post. So I figured y'all would enjoy a little visual quiz, courtesy of the Memphis Zoo...

1. One of these tree stumps is fake and the others are real (only their hairdressers know for sure) but take a wild guess.

Is it A?
Or B?

2. We've secretly replaced a real tree with a fake tree. Let's see if anyone can taste the difference.

Is it A?
Or B?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Zoo That Time Forgot - Part E/F

It's time to ink another page in our catalog of the outdated and/or derelict exhibits at the Memphis Zoo. Are we doing this to flex our mockery muscles? No, no, that's just a side benefit. We are doing this in order to illustrate, in clear living color, that the Memphis Zoo has plenty of space to create new and improved exhibits.

There's really no need to clearcut old-growth forest, is there? Our hope is that the leaders of the Memphis Zoo will learn to see the forest and the trees, embrace the principles of smart growth, and mend their sprawling ways.

Imagine all the people, living life in peace...

So far, we've documented the status of the so-called "Aquarium," the ungulates of the Round Barn, and the penguins and pelicans and trumpeter swans (oh my!) that reside in Part C.

Most recently, we plumbed the murky and tragically neglected depths of the G-spot. We were wildly excited to learn that the G-spot is the planned location for the Zambezi River Hippo Camp. It totally turned us on that the Zoo chose such a plump juicy greyfield site for its new exhibit. We'll be squirming in our front row seats at the groundbreaking, that's for sure.

But why stop there? We can't get enough of this hot redevelopment action! Check out the sweet space that'll open up after the hippos are relocated -- this is the section marked F on our big map.

The restrooms next door could use a total makeover, too.

Moving west, into the section marked E on our map, we have the Komodo dragon exhibit and an empty fenced pen that used to hold giant tortoises.

Where have all the giant tortoises gone, long time passing...?

Nothing to see here, folks. Let's mosey on south, through this picnic area, and check out the Herpetarium.

This older but well-maintained building offers an interesting assortment of reptiles and amphibians -- in woefully undersized tanks.

At least that alligator has enough space to paddle around a bit. The poor cottonmouth below? He doesn't even have room to fart. Not more than once, anyway.

It's sad to see a caged snake that can't even stretch out to its full length, and it's impossible to imagine that a semi-aquatic snake could be happy in a dry tank.

Here's the cottonmouth's neighbor:

Is it plausible that a timber rattler would prefer to curl up atop a crappy old tire, when it could be hanging out on a sandstone ledge or a nice hunk of driftwood or even...

waaaait for it...

...smack dab in the middle of a faux highway, with a log truck driver aiming to bring home a nice family-sized bucket of (tastes like) fried chicken for dinner. Looks like somebody at the Memphis Zoo is keeping it real.

Given the cramped spaces in the current Herpetarium and all the nifty sperm-n-egg work that the Zoo's herpetologists are doing with the Mississippi gopher frogs and the Louisiana pine snakes, we think the Herpetarium deserves a major upgrade.

Let's take another look at sections E and F:

Wouldn't this be a stellar location for a multi-level aquarium complex? Imagine a baby version of the Tennessee Aquarium where the reptiles, amphibians, fish, and maybe even the penguins (if they promise to behave) could all have shiny new tanks with plenty of room to play.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

They can call us crazy if we fail; they can call us brilliant if we succeed

447 N. Avalon • Memphis, TN 38112

May 12, 2008

Mr. James Jalenak
Mr. Charles Brady
Memphis Zoo
2000 Prentiss Place
Memphis, TN 38112

Dear Sirs:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with Citizens to Preserve Overton Park on May 2. We appreciate your attention to our concerns, and wanted to give you a written record of the proposal we have issued to the Memphis Zoo.

We are asking the Memphis Zoo to agree to the permanent removal of the fence that currently encloses 17 acres of old-growth forest east of Rainbow Lake.

As you know, this publicly owned land has been fenced and closed to public use for more than a decade. Mr. Brady told us that the Memphis Zoo does not plan to develop this land until ten years from now.

In addition, Mr. Brady has assured us that this land will only be developed as a low impact boardwalk trail with no other structures or exhibits. Mr. Brady stated that the goal of this exhibit would be to improve public access to the old-growth forest of Overton Park.

Given these facts, we believe it would best serve the needs of our community to remove the fence and build a nature trail for free public use. Our group stands ready to help fund and implement such a project.

We make this request on behalf of the old-growth forest of Overton Park and the neighborhoods served by this unique and irreplaceable resource. We hope that your Board of Directors will carefully consider the merits of our proposal and agree to take down the fence.

Yours sincerely,

[CPOP Board - Signatures & Mailing Addresses]

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another successful hike!

Saturday was our first go at leading a "Second Saturday" hike through the Old Forest. Don Richardson, who recently stepped down from the board of Park Friends Inc., has faithfully led these hikes for the past five years or more. CPOP is leading these hikes while Don enjoys his summer vacation.

We had good weather and a really great group -- about 30 people, including a nice assortment of small fry. Our numbers seemed to grow at every turn as people caught up with us. I was glad to see Sierra Clubbers, a few of my Lea's Woods neighbors, and a handful of Rock-n-Rompers. Naomi led the group and I stayed in the back to make sure we didn't lose anybody. As a result, I got to hang with the newbies.

My neighbors, who brought their five-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter, marveled at how much fun their kids were having and couldn't believe they had never come on a hike before. I made sure to point out that with every hike there is something new to see. Seasons change, storms come and go, etc.

The Rock-n-Rompers brought their two-year-old, who wanted to be carried more than his pregnant mom could manage, but they too were impressed by how much fun the hike was. It brought back memories of when my monkeys were too little to walk the whole trail. (Now they are swinging from the trees and I can hardly keep up.) Anyway, they had planned to go camping but changed their minds due to the threat of bad weather. The hike offered them the outdoor experience they were craving without the long drive and worry over tornadoes. Their two-year-old was super excited to hide inside an old hollowed out oak and pet a real, live box turtle.

Naomi said she would have missed the box turtle if not for a very observant young man named Bob. We love having kids on our hikes because they notice details that adults tend to miss. It's not just because their legs are closer to the ground; it's because they are fresh and new, so their world is too.

We're having so much fun on these hikes, we've decided to add another to our schedule this month. Mark your calendars for May 31, 10:00-11:30am!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Across the creek and into the trees

Rosa and I had a lovely walk at Overton Park this morning. Everything is so green and luscious. We saw and/or heard hundreds of birds, including an indigo bunting, pileated woodpeckers, Mississippi kites, and two hummingbirds. And can you believe the mulberries are getting ripe already?

I'm sure you all looked at Stacey's lovely copperhead down there and said, "Oh man, now I totally CANNOT WAIT for Saturday's nature hike!!!"

But just in case that wasn't exactly your first reaction, I encourage you to come hiking with us and learn more about the fauna and flora of this amazing forest.

We meet at 10:00am at the pedestrian bridge at the east end of Old Forest Lane, right next to the Rainbow Lake parking lot. We'll hike rain or shine, so wear boots or shoes you don't mind getting muddy.

If you have any questions, email me.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


No, not Chuck, or even Brian, but a real copperhead.

I wrote about it in my Commercial Appeal column today.

Because I Said So: Child's indoor fears disappear outdoors
By Stacey Greenberg

How can I get my 6-year-old to translate his confidence in the wild to the confines of his own home?

Satchel could probably survive alone in the woods for a week (OK, at least an hour or two), but he's too scared to go to the bathroom alone.

"Will you please go to the restroom with me?" Satchel asks me at least once a day -- more often on the weekends.

His squirmy movements mean, "HURRY! I'VE HELD IT AS LONG AS I POSSIBLY CAN."

"Let's go," I say as I head toward the bathroom.

It doesn't matter if it is night or day. It doesn't matter that he's tall enough to turn on all of the light switches. And it doesn't matter that our two very protective dogs sleep just a few feet away from the bathroom door.

"What are you so afraid of?" I ask for the millionth time.

His answers vary from "Chucky" to zombies to roaches. However, once we get outdoors, Satchel's imaginary fears dissipate.

We recently invited several friends of Satchel and his brother, Jiro, to join us on our weekly hike through Overton Park's Old Forest. Satchel was the leader and expertly navigated the trails.

"This way!" he would say confidently at each fork in the road.

"Look out for this," he said pointing to a furry poison ivy root. "Remember, poison ivy has three leaves."

Satchel was the first one to climb every tree and swing from every low-hanging vine.

"Check out this bug, guys!" he would holler every so often.

As I rounded a bend, trying to keep up with our fearless leader, I saw all the boys standing in a circle while Jack repeatedly yelled, "SNAKE!"

I stopped in my tracks.

Much to everyone's amazement, Satchel calmly picked up a long stick in order to gently move the snake off of the trail back to the safety of the forest floor like he has seen his dad do in the past.

Just then, my husband, Warren, caught up to us. "Satchel, stop!" he ordered. "That's a poisonous snake."


"Just keep going," Warren instructed. Satchel and the rest of the boys calmly and slowly walked away, as did Warren and I. No one was hurt and the snake was very happy to see us go.

Once we were free of danger, the boys were ecstatic.

"We saw a snake!" they yelped at one another.

Not once had we ever seen a poisonous snake on the trails. (Of course it happens on the day that seven sets of parents entrust their children to me!)

"What kind of snake was that again?" Satchel keeps asking.

"A copperhead," I say.

"Wasn't that cool?" he asks excitedly.

"Um, yeah ...very cool," I say. "Honey, tell me why you aren't scared of a poisonous snake, but you are scared to go to the bathroom in your own house by yourself."

I could tell he was really thinking about my question. Finally, we're going to get to the bottom of this, I thought.

He looked at me and took a deep breath.

"Because Daddy makes me watch scary movies on TV."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Our man in Cooper-Young

We'd like to introduce to you... our newest board member, Gates of Memphis, less commonly known as Cooper-Young resident Roy Barnes.

This means that we now have Overton Park surrounded from all four sides. Bwahaha!

Roy has already given considerable support to the CPOP cause with his mad mapping skills. Also, he ain't skeered of the forest and he's just a damn nice guy.

We are honored that he accepted our invitation to join the CPOP board of directors. Welcome to the monkey house, Roy!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Teton Clearcut Update

For those of you who aren't fortunate (or unlucky) enough to live within easy walking distance of the Memphis Zoo's latest expansion:

Old Forest Update

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Big Meet Up

Disclaimer: I have paraphrased below based on my memory of the conversations that took place during our meeting. I didn't have a tape recorder or anything!

At 3:45pm last Friday I sat in my car in the Zoo parking lot wondering if I was going to puke. I was so nervous! Amy & Naomi soon arrived and we made our way in through the gates. Once inside the office we were taken to a second floor conference room. There was a HUGE conference table. We spent a good five minutes trying to configure ourselves while waiting for the big wigs to join us. (I tried to goad Naomi to sit at the head of the table, but she wouldn't go for it.)

A little after 4pm, Chuck Brady, Jim Jalenak, and Brian Carter burst into the room. Chuck (as he likes for me to call him) said Jim Strickland was running late and that we should go ahead and get started. "We're not here to debate," he said, "but to answer questions and give information."

I was the first to speak for CPOP. "Can you just give us an update on what your plans for the 17 acres are?" I asked.

Naomi had taken the time to make 11x17 color copies of the Zoo's master plan and our aerial map, so Chuck was able to point at the different facets and explain what was slated. Before telling us about the low impact trail planned for the 17 acres, he pointed out something on the map called "The Meadow." This, he explained, was to be an amphitheater with a multi-use building. "But now it will be the hippo site since the Shell is being rehabbed." Jim Jalenak also pointed out that Teton Trek would have happened a long time ago had they not gotten the opportunity to bring in the pandas.

Happy to see that they had indeed made a changes in the sacred 1988 document, I said, "Maybe it's time to reconsider the Chickasaw Bluffs exhibit in light of our current understanding of environmental issues."

Chuck then went on to explain that the Chickasaw Bluffs exhibit was really important to him. He said that by developing this area, the Zoo would allow 127,000 (or more) "inner-city" children to experience the Old Forest. These children, he explained, had no other way to access the forest.

Again I was happy to see that we might have some common ground. "Chuck, we really want as many people to experience the Old Forest as possible too. I'm just not sure that a fenced-in exhibit is the way to achieve this goal."

Amy chimed in with an excellent point: "What will you do about the safety issues? Like trees falling down and becoming a part of the forest floor...that's what happens in an old growth forest."

"Yeah, a huge oak fell near #6 on the Old Forest Trail a few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon," I said. "No thunderstorm, no nothing."

"We'll design the exhibit with foresters from the U.S. Forest Service and the very best landscape architects that money can buy," he explained.

Us CPOPers are no dummies. Old Forest + Landscape Designers + Forest Service Reps = Disaster. Good-bye undergrowth. Good-bye natural inhabitants. Good-bye Old Forest.

"It's about ACCESSIBILITY," he stressed.

Amy was on fire. "The 17 acres of Old Forest slated for this exhibit cannot sustain 127,000 kids a year," she said. (Much less the 900,000 other Zoo visitors!) In essence, Chuck's plan for Chickasaw Bluffs cannot be realized without destroying the very thing he claims to want to preserve.

There were several times when Jim Jalenak, the Zoo's past board chair, looked like he got it. Like he was actually listening. That definitely helped with the constant drone from Chuck and Brian about the sacred 1988 master plan and how everything was set in stone after much debate in the community 20 years ago.

"I was 12 years old in 1988," Naomi pointed out. "A lot has changed since then."

Chuck did admit that 20 years ago, the roads that surround the Old Forest were open to traffic. And Rainbow Lake hadn't been refurbished. Clearly, he could see that a lot of things had changed. Maybe he could see that the Zoo didn't need to "protect" the 17 acres by turning it into a shadow of its former self. I mean, he even admitted that he likes to hike the trails!

"Let us draw up our schematics," he said. "I promise you'll like what you see. We aren't going to build that exhibit until about 10 years from now, anyway."

"Okay... but can't you draw your schematics without that fence? I mean, the fence has been up for 16 years and you don't plan to do your exhibit for another 10 years... how does that achieve your goal of accessibility? That's 26 years of NO ONE getting to see that part of the Old Forest," I said.

"And why not work with us to improve the nature trails in the ENTIRE forest? The forest that is large enough for everyone to enjoy? Why does 17 acres have to be isolated and landscaped??" I demanded.

"Minor trail work, kiosks or other signage, and a boardwalk like you describe you want for Chickasaw Bluffs could all go a long way in getting people into the Old Forest," Naomi pointed out.

"I mean have you driven down East Parkway on the weekends? There are hundreds of people using the pavilion, playground and picnic areas who never venture into the forest because they either don't realize it is there or they think it is unsafe," I said.

Jim Strickland, our most awesome City Councilman, stepped in with a suggestion. "Why not let them take some time to digest this? Then meet up again in a month or so."

"Great idea, Jim!" we all agreed, and left humming Kumbaya in our heads.

But here's the deal. Chuck thinks we are just three uppity women. "If I did everything every group wanted, the Zoo would be a mess," he told us. Chuck and the rest of the powers that be need to know that CPOP speaks for a larger community of Old Forest lovers.

We need you! Comment here, send emails to Councilman Jim Strickland and Zoo president Chuck Brady, join our membership list by emailing your contact info to Amy, put one of our stickers on your car, come to our meeting later this month, share your stories and experiences in the Old Forest with us... all of these things will help the Zoo know that when CPOP says "Down with Fence!" that they should listen.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The men behind the curtain

Stacey, Amy and I had a very enlightening meeting yesterday with Chuck Brady, Jim Jalenak, and Brian Carter. Also in attendance was our hard-working District 5 Councilman, Jim Strickland, who chairs the Memphis City Council's Parks Committee and serves as the Council's official liaison to the Memphis Zoo.

It was clear that Mr. Brady wasn't thrilled about meeting with us, but that's understandable. He's got a PhD in zoology and knows how dangerous wild animals can be when provoked.

But we met for nearly 90 minutes and everyone behaved like grownups. Nobody yelled, cried, or got punched in the eye. No dung was flung.

We spoke frankly and asked a lot of questions, including many suggested by our readers, and the Zoo reps did provide a few definitive answers:

  • The 17-acre enclosure was established as part the Overton Park Master Plan that was approved by the City Council in 1988. The fence was erected in 1992.
  • The recent undergrowth removal along the fence line is officially part of the Memphis Zoo's efforts to control "coyote predation," but "homeless people" and "motion-sensor cameras" were also mentioned during the meeting, so draw your own conclusions on that one.
  • The Memphis Zoo does not plan to construct the Chickasaw Bluffs exhibit until about ten years from now. They intend to build a boardwalk nature trail, but no other structures.
  • The Memphis Zoo will build the Zambezi River exhibit in the area marked "Meadow" on their master plan drawing (aka, the G-spot).

  • That drawing is the only publicly available documentation of the Memphis Zoo's master plan. Mr. Brady told us there is no written component of the master plan.
Finally, we asked Mr. Brady and Mr. Jalenak if they and their governing board would consider making two major changes in the way the Memphis Zoo does business:
  1. We asked them to give the general public a meaningful voice in the future planning and development of the Memphis Zoo.
  2. We asked them to modify the Chickasaw Bluffs exhibit plan by removing the fence around the 17 acres and building a nature trail that everyone can enjoy for free. We suggested that the Memphis Zoo lead this project in partnership with Park Services, interested community groups (CPOP, Park Friends, adjoining neighborhood associations, etc.) and the general public.

So the upshot is this: The Memphis Zoo will consider our requests, and we'll meet again in a few months.

Are we witnessing the dawn of glasnost at the Memphis Zoo? Time will tell.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come

On the cusp of CPOP's meeting with the Zoo, I think it's worth mentioning another example of the Zoo's destructive relationship with the Old Forest. It's by no means as bad as the Teton Clearcut, but as it came 6 months before, perhaps we can see in it an inkling of the Zoo's disrespect of the Forest.

Last year the Zoo bulldozed out the understory of the Forest along the edges of the 17-acre fenced area between Rainbow Lake and Lick Creek. Although they kept the mature trees, they removed the texture and diversity of the Forest.

This is what it looked like along Lick Creek in September, afterwards.

Where Forest understory was removed

If you can ignore the autofocus problem, look at the dirt patches where they removed the undergrowth.

And here's the triangle of Forest shaped by the old roads winding past Rainbow Lake, also from September after the undergrowth was cleared. On the right side of my crappy picture, you can still see the stacked pile of excised undergrowth, reminiscent of this.

Where Forest understory was removed

Then in early April I noticed some new additions to the triangle. Notice the new bushes in the center.

Triangle of Missing Understory, Overton Park

I'm pretty sure they're new, because I see little nursery tags on their branches.

Nursery Plants  that Replaced Mowed Down Understory

So, the Zoo has removed wild, natural undergrowth and planted nursery plants in their place.

Why would they plant anything after spending the time destroying it?

Is it a show of remorse for the original removal? If so, why not let the brother branches of the Forest help these parts naturally regenerate, perhaps with a once-in-a-while manual removal of invasive species?

Or is it that you plan to keep mowing and cutting, don't want it to regenerate, don't like it?

Something to remember about this part of the Zoo's forest enclosure: it has old asphalt roads running through it (you can see them in several of my pictures), wrapping all the way around to the south side of Rainbow Lake. The roads provided great utility for the Zoo without their having to remove anything. They in fact had a large compost pile on the side of the road next to the understory for awhile. No one, as far as I know, has ever asked the Zoo to remove those roads. The necessary utility would have been there no matter what.

But they still removed the understory.