Thursday, August 28, 2008

Overton Park

Letters to the Editor
Thursday, August 28, 2008 - Memphis Flyer
Overton Park

Congratulations on the superb story about the Overton Park forest ("Out of the Woods," August 14th issue).

Landscape architect Ritchie Smith was quoted as saying the park had routine traffic gridlock in 1986. It is our understanding that Smith was working on a plan at that time to add more roads to make the park an extension of city streets. We felt at the time that Smith was a part of the problem. However, our forest preservation group was able to stop the intrusion. Smith also prepared the zoo master plan.

Zoo president Chuck Brady also was quoted as saying that "all zoos have to be protected by fenced barriers," as if the zoo owned the 17 acres of forest in question. In fact, the people of Memphis own the 17 acres. The zoo cut four acres of the forest in a secretive and shameful manner and simply cannot be trusted to care for any part of the forest.

I would also like to correct my statement in the article. I failed to make clear my comment about the black cherry living 500 to 700 years. The reference was to two yellow poplar trees near the cherry tree. The poplars are about 200 years old but could live 500 to 700 years. However, the cherry tree is one of the larger of its species.

Thanks again for the well-written article. It was a needed service for the people of Memphis.

Pepper Marcus

I am convinced that if landscape architects Ritchie Smith and Lissa Thompson had not stepped in in 1986 and prevented the zoo from expanding into the greensward and taking Rainbow Lake, Overton Park would have been ruined. Their Overton Park master plan saved these priceless amenities of the crown jewel of the Memphis park system.

In fact, the master plan, the first comprehensive assessment of the park since its inception in 1901, was designed to "improve the quality and condition of various recreational spaces within the park [and] create more effective management practices, especially for the historic and forest resources." In other words, forest preservation should take precedence over any other consideration. The ecological integrity of the forest is paramount in the master plan and should never be compromised.

Randy Norwood


*the Jones family* said...

If the people of Memphis own the 17 acres, why do we have to convince the zoo to take down the fence? Could we not take the fence down ourselves since it is property of the people?