Friday, April 24, 2009

For the beauty of the earth

This Sunday, April 26, we're offering two free guided nature hikes in the beautiful Old Forest of Overton Park.

The first hike will begin at our usual time of 10:00am, for all you Emily Dickinson fans.

The second hike will begin at 2:00pm and will be guided by botanist Tom Heineke, who was hired nine months ago by Memphis Park Services to conduct a year-long plant survey of our forest.

Both hikes meet on the Lick Creek bridge at the east end of Old Forest Lane, next to the Rainbow Lake parking lot. We cover a leisurely 1.5 miles on dirt trails. Kids are always welcome. Email if you need more info.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Springtime is come, the winter departed

An enthusiastic crowd of 35 people joined us for Saturday's nature mosey at Overton Park. Beautiful weather, beautiful wildflowers, who could ask for anything more?

Moseyers, by Jimmy Ogle

Old Forest Dogwood 04-11-09Dogwood blooming, by Amie Vanderford

mayapplesMayapple flower, by Melissa Bridgman

buckeyeRed buckeye, by Melissa Bridgman

Blue phlox, by Corey Griffin

Red buckeye, by Corey Griffin

Thanks to Amie, Melissa and Corey for adding those gorgeous photos to our Flickr pool!

Our next guided hikes will be on Sunday, April 26. We will do our usual 10:00am hike, then our favorite botanist, Tom Heineke, will lead a second hike starting at 2:00pm. Both hikes meet at the east end of Old Forest Lane, next to the Rainbow Lake parking lot.

If you can't join us this month, please take yourself for a walk in the woods. Don't miss this amazing season in the Old Forest!

Monday, April 13, 2009

One Step Forward, or Just Two Back?

Below is the recap of the telephone conversation I had last week with Zoo Director Chuck Brady regarding the Zoo's planning for the Chickasaw Bluffs exhibit and the recent understory clearing.

(Click the image to read)

The conversation was a follow up from our earlier talk.

The next step: into the 17 acres for an on-the-ground meeting with the Zoo.

Friday, April 10, 2009

And heaven in a wild flower

Join us tomorrow morning -- 10:00am, Saturday, April 11 -- for a wildflower hike in the beautiful Old Forest of Overton Park. We meet at the Lick Creek bridge at the east end of Old Forest Lane, next to the Rainbow Lake parking area. We cover a leisurely 1.5 miles on dirt trails. Kids are always welcome!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Urban Greenspaces Workshop

Our own Jimmy Ogle will represent CPOP tomorrow at a Rhodes College workshop that is intended to "add a dimension to current debates about urban greenspaces in Memphis." This event is open to the public. Here's the skinny:

The History and Culture of City Parks, Urban Greenspaces, and Urban Planning: A Workshop

Culminating in a round table discussion of
Memphis’s Greenspace Heritage and its Future

7 April 2009

4:00-7:30 PM
Ballroom, Bryan Campus Life Center

Contact: Michael Leslie
Tel.: 901 843 3715;

The aim of this workshop is to set our contemporary and local debates over green spaces in Memphis and Shelby County in the context of two centuries of debate over environmental protection and urban planning.

Overton Park and the Memphis Parkway system, planned by George Kessler, were designed explicitly with an eye to F.L. Olmsted’s famous New York developments of Central Park and Prospect Park. But the Olmsted parks were not just objects of beauty: Olmsted was passionately convinced that such greenspaces contributed both to the social cohesiveness and fairness of a modern urban society and to the health of urban populations.

His ideas for urban parks were formed as a result of his travels in Britain and Europe, in particular by his experience of Birkenhead Park, in Northern England. Designed by the great engineer Joseph Paxton and opened in 1847, Olmsted considered that Birkenhead Park achieved a democratisation of urban experience and produced significant health benefits for one of the 19th century’s great industrial cities.

Paxton was an innovator, but he too inherits a dynamic tradition of urban planning and sanitation reform from the 18th century. Birkenhead Park draws from the new towns of Edinburgh and Bath. The creation and maintenance of green spaces are an urgent concern from the very moment at which rapid urbanisation and industrialisation emerged in the western world.

Dr Rosemary (Roey) Sweet
Professor of Urban History and Director of the Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester. Author of The Writing of Urban Histories in Eighteenth-century England (Oxford Historical Monographs) (1997); The English Town, 1680-1840: Government, Society and Culture (Themes In British Social History) (1999); Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-century England: On the Town (2003); and Antiquaries: The Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth Century Britain (2004) (among much more)
Dr. Roey Sweet will survey examples of polite spaces in newly-urbanising 18th-century Britain, revealing intellectual underpinnings that range from enthusiasm for Druids through to a recognition of the need for open space and traffic management in the battle against disease, appalling living conditions, and the moral failings of the poor. Dr Sweet will also caution against taking overly seriously many of these assertions of noble motives, pointing out that the creation of open spaces also contributed to the enhancement of property values and the attraction of an elite population.

Dr Katy Layton Jones
Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of Leicester. Author of Places of Health and Amusement: Liverpool's Historic Parks and Gardens (Informed Conservation) (2008)
Dr Katy Layton-Jones will carry the story into Britain’s famous 19th-century parks movement. Throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries, the British landscape was transformed by industrialisation, urbanisation and suburbanisation. This physical transformation of space was accompanied by a conceptual one, through which existing notions of public and private, rural and urban, were reappraised and challenged. Central to this process of redefining and reshaping the British landscape, was the ‘creation’ or designation of public green space in the form of walks, cemeteries, and perhaps most importantly, municipal parks. This paper will look at how the process of creating public green space, the designs of influential figures such as Joseph Paxton and Edward Kemp, and representations of the finished landscapes, all contributed to a re-conceptualisation of the British urban realm in the long 19th century.

Michael Leslie, Rhodes College
"Birkenhead Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, Central Park, and the Design Brief for Overton Park"
Dr Michael Leslie will briefly document the influence of these 18th and 19th-century urban green space developments on the most important urban landscape designer in American history, Frederick Law Olmsted, the principal designer of both Central Park and Prospect Park in New York and the creator of urban parkway systems. He will point to the continuation of many of the themes identified by Drs Sweet and Layton-Jones in American urban space creation, not least in the Tennessee example of Memphis’s Parkways and Overton Park, designed by one of Olmsted’s disciples, George Kessler.


Participants are Jimmy Ogle (Citizens to Preserve Overton Park), Lauren Taylor (Hyde Foundation), Diana Threadgill (Mississippi Corridor), Ritchie Smith and Lissa Thompson (Ritchie Smith and Associates).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Memphis Zoo Expands To 342 Acres

April 1, 2009

Memphis Zoo Expands To 342 Acres

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Zoo is pleased to announce a bold new expansion plan that will nearly quadruple its size to a total of 342 acres.

"We couldn't be more thrilled about this tremendous opportunity," said Memphis Zoo director Chuck Brady. "We always like to think of ourselves as a hungry anaconda on the prowl, and Overton Park as a tasty newborn piglet that can't run very fast. Swallowing that piglet is a proud achievement for us."

As part of its expansion, the Memphis Zoo will install a 15-foot wall around the perimeter of the 342-acre Overton Park. The wall was designed by a German architectural firm.

"We were looking for a cosmopolitan yet timeless look, and we're very excited about implementing this design," said Zoo spokesmodel Brian Carter.

"This expansion has been part of our master plan for the past 20 years," Carter added, "and we want to reassure everyone that the Zoo has no immediate plans to limit public use of Overton Park, as long as you pay the admission fee."

Money-making park attractions, such as the Brooks Museum and the golf course, will remain open but will be enclosed in glass so that Zoo visitors can observe rare and endangered human subspecies (Fine Art Supporters and Golfers Who Walk) in their natural habitats.

The remainder of the park will be converted into exhibits and paved parking lots, with a hotel complex and shopping mall in the works. "The best part is that we can fund many of these projects with onsite resources," said Brady. "All we have to do is strip the old-growth timber and truck it to the sawmill, and we've had plenty of practice doing that."

The Zoo's future exhibit plans include:

  • Zambezi River Hippo Camp. This exhibit will allow visitors to "experience daily life in a typical African village along the Zambezi River." Avoid the hungry jaws of hippos and crocs while fishing for your dinner! Fend off starvation as you learn how to slaughter and stew your own goat!

  • Serengeti on the Greensward. Thrill to the sight of giraffes and antelopes roaming freely among the minivans! Watch the elephants and rhinos wallow in the mud of the new Greensward Marshlands!

  • Chickasaw Bluffing. This amazing exhibit will take 17 acres of the old-growth ecosystem that typified the Mississippi River Valley until the mid-1800s and replace it with an exact concrete replica! Enjoy the shooting gallery featuring animatronic ivory-billed woodpeckers, Carolina parakeets, and passenger pigeons!

Construction of the new wall around Overton Park began two weeks ago and is nearly complete, the Zoo said.

"We did a private groundbreaking ceremony with champagne and Oysters Rockefeller and so forth," said Brady. "Over the years, we've realized that this kind of event is always a more pleasant experience for our major donors if they don't have to rub elbows with the hoi polloi."

The Zoo is soliciting public input on what color to paint the wall. "You can cast your vote at," said Carter. "We're offering three exciting choices: steel gray, slate gray, or gunmetal gray."


Brian Carter
(901) 333-6566

[Adapted from the original post: April 1, 2008.]