Sunday, June 8, 2008

The zoo that ate the park

Letters to the Editor
Sunday, June 8, 2008 - Commercial Appeal
The zoo that ate the park

The Teton Trek development at the Memphis Zoo came as a shock to me when I read about it. There is a tendency toward a complacency that never thinks that someone in business or government will drain the Mississippi River to sell the water, or cut down the parks' trees to sell as firewood, or suck up the atmosphere to ship off somewhere for a profit. Au contraire. They will, and they do.

I am not just shocked at the cutting down of the old-growth trees in Overton Park, but have for years been outraged that the zoo just keeps on growing, and the rest of the park shrinking. The zoo seems to believe that it is the dominant presence in Overton Park, and if it wants to subsume the entire park it can, and will.

I have enjoyed going to the zoo as a child and an adult. However, the zoo has gotten big enough and needs to be stopped from any further expansion; in fact, it should give back all the undeveloped land to the public. In the '60s and '70s a road encircled the lake. The more roads or pathways the better, to create an interesting environment and more choices as to where to walk, run, bike or skate. The loss of that road, now fenced in, lessened the integrity and complexity of the park.

The zoo administration, like any power-hungry bureaucracy, is far more interested in self-aggrandizement than any public need. Who wanted a Teton park there? What will be next? The Rif mountains of Morocco, then a replica of the Wolf River swamps, then the Altamira Cave? It is time the zoo organization was forced to ensure maintenance and events within its immediate developed area, and give up its urban imperial dreams.

Richard Owen