Memphis Greenspace is the non-profit that on Wednesday purchased the two city parks where Confederate statues once stood.
Greenspace, headed by Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, was formed in October with a mission “to start, strengthen and support community involvement surrounding park-based recreation.”
Wednesday evening the sale of the parks for $1,000 each was complete and the parks were officially privately owned and in the hands of Greenspace. The transfer of Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park to the organization made removing the statues a legal action, Turner said in a press conference Thursday morning near the spot where Nathan Bedford Forrest’s equestrian statue once sat.
Removing the statues “liberates the park from the barriers that prevented it from truly being for the public,” he said.
However, the graves of Forrest and his wife still sit in Health Sciences Park, and Turner said they will remain until an agreement is reached with the members of the Forrest family about where to relocate the bodies. Elmwood Cemetery is a strong contender, he said.
Turner also expects lawsuits from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and other supporters of the statues.
But for now, Turner said the focus should be shifted from the statues and toward the future of the parks and the city.
“In the shadow of MLK50, the question on our minds is, where do we go from here?” he said.
Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park will remain open to the public and operate as parks. The group will work with the community to plan, envision, and “amplify our new set of expectations.”
Turner said he anticipates the transfer of other city parks to Greenspace in the future in order to assist in making them better and more accessible to the public.
“This is only the beginning,” he continued. “They’re other parks that need to be liberated from mediocrity and return to the people as a unifying asset.”