Zoo Wants Trams Through Old Forest

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The Memphis Zoo made their wish to run trams through Overton Park's Old Forest official Thursday in a note to zoo members. 

Zoo officials said Strickland's plan "brings us very close to a solution." 

"We like a lot about the mayor’s plan, but we think it can be modified to better accommodate our 1 million plus visitors," the note reads. "We are asking the Memphis City Council to support our suggested improvements to his plan."

Those improvements include "free, new, eco-friendly" trams that "will transport zoo visitors on an existing paved road through Overton Park directly to the zoo."

Here's how it would work, according to the zoo:

"When Zoo parking is full, cars would be directed to the overflow parking lot. Visitors will park in a secure, paved area. Zoo visitors will then be picked up by our own Zoo tram and transported straight to the zoo."

However, the Old Forest has been designated as a protected state natural area by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. This designation prohibits the use of motorized vehicles through the forest.    

Here's the full message sent Thursday to zoo members: 

"First, we want to thank you for a record year. This year, we had 1.13 million visitors walk through our gates – more than any other time. Second, we want to make you aware of a very important issue facing you – our Zoo visitors and supporters. A decision is coming soon that will permanently affect the way you and millions of visitors gain access to the Zoo.

If you have visited the Memphis Zoo on busy days, you know that our parking is limited. You might also know that on our busiest days, our overflow parking utilizes a grassy area that is adjacent to our parking lot. This area, known as the Greensward, has become a point of contention and we’ve been working on alternatives.

Recently, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland presented a plan that brings us very close to a solution. He proposed that we reduce our footprint on the grass, and that we re-direct our overflow parking to city streets around the Zoo and to an off-site location on East Parkway. Zoo goers would then be bused, via city streets, from that satellite location back to the Zoo.

We’ve heard your concerns. You have told us repeatedly that when you arrive to the Zoo, you want to feel safe and have convenient access to the Zoo entrance. We like a lot about the Mayor’s plan, but we think it can be modified to better accommodate our 1 million plus visitors. We are asking the Memphis City Council to support our suggested improvements to his plan.

We propose an increase in the amount of parking in and around our main lot, and a change in how visitors are transported from the off-site parking lot on East Parkway to the Memphis Zoo. Instead of using buses on city streets, we would like to have free, new, eco-friendly trams that can easily accommodate families with strollers, coolers and other items needed for a day at the Zoo. As you can see in the video above, the trams will transport Zoo visitors on an existing paved road through Overton Park directly to the Zoo.

Here’s how it would work:
When Zoo parking is full, cars would be directed to the overflow parking lot.
Visitors will park in a secure, paved area.
Zoo visitors will then be picked up by our own Zoo tram and transported straight to the Zoo.

Now you know where we stand. We wanted you to hear directly from us what we are asking for. More parking at the front of our zoo, and the use of trams to and from the overflow parking area. To make these improvements happen, we need your help.

On July 19th, the Memphis City Council is going to vote to permanently change the way you park at the Memphis Zoo. We ask that you act now! Please contact Memphis City Council members and let them know that you want a parking solution that is both safe and convenient for all guests to the zoo.

Please share this video, get informed and contact the Memphis City Council members today!"

A screenshot of the zoo's YouTube video to zoo members. - MEMPHIS ZOO
  • Memphis Zoo
  • A screenshot of the zoo's YouTube video to zoo members.



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