Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Zoo plans treed by protest

Champions of Overton forest oppose expansion
Wednesday, June 4, 2008 - Commercial Appeal

By Linda Moore

What Memphis Zoo officials call the continuation of its 1988 master plan, protectors of Overton Park's old growth forest call devastating.

On Thursday, the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park will have a public meeting at Rhodes College to introduce its members and objectives to the public.

"We just want to provide a really clear picture for the public of what's going on at Overton Park right now, with the old forest being cut by the Memphis Zoo and where do we go from here," said president Naomi Van Tol.

The group, reborn from one that fought and won the battle to keep Interstate 40 from traveling through the park, has protested the removal of trees in the old growth forest by the zoo to make way for the Teton Trek exhibit, which is scheduled to open next summer.

The group also wants the zoo to remove a fence from the 17 acres of old forest that have been set aside for a low environmental impact exhibit of the forest itself.

"We do not believe the zoo needs to expand in that way," Van Tol said. "We fully support the zoo improving and growing, but we believe there are other ways for them to grow instead of expanding outward and eating up the park."

The forest exhibit has not been funded, zoo officials said, although it was part of the 1988 master plan.

"The zoo's master plan and the zoo's development as an institution has been transparent," said Chuck Brady, zoo president. "We try to listen to all segments of the community, even those who oppose us."


What: Citizens to Preserve Overton Park meeting

When: 7:00-8:00 p.m. Thursday

Where: Blount Auditorium at Buckman Hall, Rhodes College

On the Web: Overton Park Forever