Monday, March 10, 2008

Eyewitness News: Midtowners fight expansion of Memphis Zoo

Eyewitness News Story

Memphis, TN - On a recent walk through Overton Park, Midtowner Stacey Greenberg was shocked to see a giant patch of brown dirt where lovely trees once stood.

"I was in complete disbelief," says Greenberg, "You know, the zoo talks about conservation. Yet here they are tearing down a 10,000 year-old forest."

The Memphis Zoo removed trees on a four acre piece of land to make way for a new exhibit.

Naomi Van Tol is equally upset about it. So she and Greenberg teamed up to reform the group, "Citizens To Preserve Overton Park." The original CPOP was founded in 1957 to fight a government proposal to extend Interstate-40 through Overton Park. The group disbanded three decades later after the plan was eventually dropped.

The goal for the new CPOP is to raise awareness in the community about the Memphis Zoo's expansion projects.

"We just felt it was really unacceptable," Van Tol says of the trees that were bulldozed. "The zoo didn't involve the public. This is our park. This is our forest. And we feel the forest is too precious to be sacrificed for exhibits."

But Brian Carter, a spokesperson for the zoo, says all of their expansion plans, including this latest one, have been available to the public since the mid 1980's.

"This project has been part of the master plan for 20-years," says Carter. "We feel as though the community has had ample opportunity to speak about our plans and the plans for Overton Park. And we're always taking in comments by e-mail and phone."

Carter says the number of comments the zoo receives usually increases every time construction starts on a new exhibit.

Greenberg and Van Tol realize it's too late to save the four acres. It's the 17 acres the zoo also owns around Rainbow Lake that they're worried about now.

"The number one thing I want," says Greenberg, "is for people to come out and see it. If you've hiked the trails in the forest and you've seen all the trees, you can't argue that what's going on is wrong."

Carter says there are no development plans in place for the lake acreage. He says the zoo's master plan has reserved the area for a minimal impact forest trail exhibit.

As for the exhibit currently under construction, it's called the Tee-tone Trek [sic]. It's located next to Northwest Passage and will feature elk, grizzlies, timberwolves and trumpeter swans when it opens in the summer of 2009. Zoo leaders say the display will replicate the natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park.

The zoo's master plan is available on their website at

You can find more information about Citizens To Preserve Overton Park on their website:


Billy said...

I am so sick of hearing about this master plan. What they did was environmentally moronic, it was irrespnsible and anybody that can reason at a 6th level knows cutting down an old growth forest for the sake of a new Zoo exhibit doesn't fly on any level except somebody's ego and somebody's wallet. What would Ed Abbey do?

Anonymous said...

So what Mr. Carter, zoo spokesman, is essentially saying is that the zoo was planning on destroying this part of the Old Forest since the 1980s. This just proves that the Memphs Zoo has no right to be in conservation.

Furthermore, their "Chickasaw Trail" plan for the remaining fenced-off portion of the forest will no doubt involve the "culling" of just as many, if not more, trees.

Down with Fence.

Stacey Greenberg said...

yes, somehow the zoo thinks that because it's been in the works for so long, that makes it right. as if nothing has happened in the last twenty years to make our community realize how important our natural resources are. what an inconvenient truth!

Anonymous said...

Down with the Fence!