The public should have a chance to be heard on the results of mediation between the Overton Park Conservancy and the Memphis Zoo, according to grassroots Overton Park advocacy group.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland directed the conservancy and the zoo to mediation talks in January after the two filed separate lawsuits claiming control of the Greensward in Overton Park. Those lawsuits came as groups protested the zoo’s use of the green space for overflow parking.
Mediation is to due to end on June 30. If the groups cannot come to agreements after the deadline, Strickland said he will step in with a solution for parking. The Memphis City Council has an ordinance prepared, however, to legally capture the results of mediation into city law. A vote on that ordinance is slated for Tuesday, July 5.
The Overton Park Alliance (OPA), a group of groups including neighborhood associations, preservation organizations, online groups and more, said in a statement Wednesday that the public should get a look at the results of mediation before any plan is put into action.
“All of Overton Park, including the Memphis Zoo, belong to the people of Memphis,” Mary Wilder, founder and co-chair of the OPA, said in a statement. “We understand the need for confidentiality during mediation, but it is equally important that this process respect principles of open government and transparency.
“The people of Memphis should have an opportunity to review and give feedback on the solutions that arise out of mediation. Any proposal to change to the way parkland is used must be subject to ample public review and comment.”
OPA also recommended creating parking spots on North Parkway and in the zoo’s existing parking lot, work on which is currently underway. Further, OPA recommended moving buses and zoo employee vehicles to offsite parking lots to create more parking.
Doing this, the group said, will be cheaper than building a parking garage and would remove the “need for the city to transfer management rights over any part of Overton Park to the zoo.”
Further, OPA recommended moving the zoo’s maintenance facility off site, which would free up 100 spaces for parking. Offering free memberships to families with EBT cards would help ease parking demand on free Tuesdays, OPA said.
An earlier version of this story said the city council ordinance was scheduled for a vote on July 7. That vote is actually scheduled for Tuesday, July 5.