Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Run Through the Forest

Today's guest post is from CPOP supporter Greg Russell. Thanks, Greg!

So I did my usual run through the old forest of Overton Park yesterday afternoon. Despite the heat and humidity, summer is probably my favorite time to run the trails. The lush and often damp vegetation reminds me of time I spent in the rainforests of Peru.

I never tire of running in Overton because each season offers something different: in spring, the woods are filled with the strong smell of honeysuckle. From one day to the next, you can see the forest canopy expanding as leafless trees become filled with vegetation. You begin to see different reptiles in the park as it comes alive after a long winter. As leaves change to golds and reds in autumn and then fall to the forest floor, several paths are filled with these leaves, offering a sort of “golden brick road.” Winter is moody with shortening days, meaning earlier trips to the park. The occasional snow creates a winter wonderland and is filled with sleds carrying folks of all ages.

I used to work in national parks as a ranger. The Grand Tetons, Denali in Alaska and Rocky Mountain National Park are a few of the places I spent time in. It was easy to walk or run into the woods and find solitude and quiet, a place without fences, a place filled with the beauty of nature without any sign of unnatural encroachment. I now find that quiet and solitude within Overton Park.

As a writer, I often come up with story ideas as I run the trails. Overton Park is the perfect setting for contemplative recreation. It offers an oasis of calm in the hustle and bustle of the city. Also as I run the trails, the thought of an ever-shrinking forest due to encroachment by civilization comes to mind, especially as I pass the area that was bulldozed and clear-cut to make room for a new zoo exhibit that already is showing signs of becoming a concrete jungle. It makes me think how important it is that the citizens of Memphis come together and protect our park.

I often come back to a book I once read that extols the value of nature, “Mountains Without Handrails.” Nature is best observed in its most natural state, without boardwalks, without signs of human construction. It is best enjoyed on its own terms. Any visible construction compromises the natural state of the park. The park is accessible to all now, except, unfortunately, for the 17 acres of fenced-in area the zoo is trying to claim.

I lost faith in our Zoo officials because of the reckless abandon they exhibited in destroying old growth forest for their Teton Trek exhibit. I say it is time to stop any further plans by the Memphis Zoo or anyone else to encroach on a jewel that is best enjoyed in its most natural state.


Anonymous said...

"Nature is best observed in its most natural state, without boardwalks, without signs of human construction."

Amen! This is why we need to preserve places like Overton and Shelby Farms. They represent two of the last natural states in Memphis.

Anonymous said...

everyone should be able to enjoy the park. Including those of us in wheelchairs, who also enjoy nature.

Have you even seen the zoo's plans? You distort the zoo's plans and demonize one of the best things Memphis has going. I realize that it's not the zoo I can't trust: it's you.

Anonymous said...

Shelby Farms is in a natural state? I believe you are misinformed.

I do agree with the quote you pulled from the article though.

Unknown said...

and by "you" I mean CPOP.

Sorry, Greg. I love the woods too. But this isn't a highway. It's a wheelchair accessable boardwalk.

Anonymous said...

If accessibility IS the issue here, then why does the boardwalk need to be built in a PUBLICLY OWNED area that requires a substantial fee (easily 50+ dollars for a family visit-- which is way more than the fee that is charged to State and National Park users)??? It does not make sense. Here’s one solution: Let’s put the public funds into renovating the existing trails in the Old Forest for the enjoyment of ALL—physically challenged as well as financially challenged folks alike.

Anonymous said...

Warren makes a good argument. Paths can be made wheelchair accessible. Plus, there are already trails in the park, places that are accessible by those in wheelchairs, the paved road around the park loop, the gravel path, too, in areas not fenced off and charged admission for. And for those who see this as not good enough, there are already areas with boardwalks or paved paths where you can enjoy nature in Shelby County. The zoo is a good thing for Memphis, but so is Overton Park. Destroying one for the other is not a good solution.

Anonymous said...

Much of Shelby Farms IS natural -- certainly the Lucius Burch Jr. Natural Area as well as the eastern part of the park that contains the Tour de Wolf trail. What little untamed wilderness remains in this town needs to stay that way, whether it's in Midtown or the 'burbs.

Amanda said...

CPOP untrustworthy? exactly what has CPOP done to become untrustworthy?

let's review...

*20th century: saved midtown by stopping I40...how dare they?

*21st century: encouraging an open discussion with the leaders of the most visited attraction in the city. leaders who have plans (which were unpublished) for land owned and operated by the citizens of said city. how dare they?

really, CPOP untrustworthy? to me, it's the zoo who is becoming untrustworthy!