by Shelby Black
If Overton Park could speak, the hundred-plus-year-old park would likely have plenty of stories to tell. But while it's doubtful the park will ever gain the power of speech, a new collaboration is allowing Midtown's largest park to share stories in a different way.
The Overton Park Conservatory has teamed up with the Memphis Eagle Scouts and the Memphis Public Library to add The StoryWalk Project to Overton Park. The idea was pushed by 16-year-old Eagle Scout candidate John Robert Leake, as well Mary Seratt from the Memphis Public Library and Information Center.
This new attraction is located on a scenic quarter-mile trail adjacent to East Parkway. Wooden posts line the route, and each post contains one page from the children’s book Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. In order to finish the story, the readers must follow the trail and read the pages placed on each wooden post until the trail, or story, ends.
The trail was opened to the public in April, and so far it has received positive feedback, particularly on the Overton Park Conservancy's Facebook page. Melissa McMasters, director of communications for the Overton Park Conservatory, as well as one of the main figures behind the project, contributes the success of StoryWalk to the originality of the idea of combining outdoor recreation and literacy as a working partnership.
The StoryWalk Project encourages children not only to exercise but also to read, ultimately killing two birds with one stone. Another reason for the trail’s popularity is because it brings an element of surprise for those simply going for a walk in the park.
“If the parents or children don’t know about the trail, it’s something fun to discover," McMasters said.
The books will be switched out at various times to encourage children to keep reading and allow them to read different books. The new Overton Park trail is the first StoryWalk Project installation in Tennessee, but Serratt said she hopes the project's will allow for more StoryWalk trails to be added in various parks of Memphis.
The StoryWalk Project is just one of several recent additions and changes at Overton Park. Last year saw the opening of the Overton Bark dog park. Currently, additions and renovations are underway to make Overton Park a better and more modern family venue, such as remodeling Rainbow Lake Playground, cleaning up the limestone nature trail, and introducing a new bike trail that will connect Overton Park with the Shelby Farms Greenline.