The battle for the Greensward is over (for the Memphis City Council, anyway).
Council members approved a plan Tuesday that would end parking on the Greensward after parking construction is complete in and around the Memphis Zoo sometime around January
Council members (WHO) vote for the plan. Council members (WHO) voted against it.
The resolution was sponsored by council member Bill Morrison and is an amended version of the plan introduced by Mayor Jim Strickland two weeks ago. The resolution replaced the ordinance the council has had prepared for weeks, which was meant to be a placeholder for whatever agreement was to come after mediation talks between the zoo and the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC).
So, Tuesday’s vote was the last vote needed by the council for the zoo, OPC, and Strickland’s administration to begin to iron out the many details to execute the plan. The vote ends nearly two years of battle on the issue.
Zoo president Chuck Brady and OPC executive director Tina Sullivan both spoke during the citizens' comments section of the meeting. The both said they supported the resolution.
Morrison noticed, though, that Greensward supporters clapped for Sullivan and zoo supporters clapped for Brady.
"It's over now," Morrison said. "It's time to bury it."
Morrison said the proposal was a compromise between the Memphis Zoo and the Overton Park Conservancy and it all came down to a number — 415. That’s the amount of parking spaces the zoo said it needed to make the plan work. OPC said the figure worked because it left the Greensward largely whole.
Morrison said the final resolution adds the spaces on the zoo’s existing lots and a new, smaller lot that would be built on the north end of the Greensward, though it would protect “as many trees [there] as possible.” It eliminates trams through the Old Forest, he said, creates a new entrance on North Parkway, and brings about the “eventual end of parking on the Greensward.”
The agreement would allow the zoo to use the Greensward for overflow parking until January 2019. Though, Morrison noted the date is a rough estimate.
The resolution would put the final cost of implementing the plan to OPC and the zoo. Zoo president Chuck Brady told council members the plan will cost $3 million, split evenly between OPC and the zoo.
Morrison worked behind the scene with OPC and the zoo and the mayor’s office in the two weeks following the council’s delay on the final vote.
“Not everyone’s happy,” Morrison said, “which means we probably did pretty good job.”
Many citizens spoke before the council Tuesday:
• “I live in Whitehaven and there’s not a lot of parks I can go to that are safe,” said Katherine Blaylock. “So, please consider saving Overton Park.”
• What we have here are two popular public amenities," said OPC director Tina Sullivan. "When you're blessed with [popular amenities], you have to make plans to accommodate those successes."
Sullivan urged the council to pass the resolution.
• "I wanted to tell you that it's everybody's zoo," said zoo president Chuck Brady. "This year we've had [1.1 million] visitors to the zoo, more importantly, 608,000 of those visitors were city residents. So, people from all over the city are coming to enjoy this zoo."
Brady said he supported the resolution.