Trails of all kinds. More forest land. More grassland. Playgrounds. Fitness stations. Festivals. Art installations. Gardens. Commercial activities. No commercial activities.
Votes and suggestions are in for the best ways to develop a 13-acre piece of property on the east side of Overton Park. The space has been home to a City of Memphis general services facility for decades. But it’s moving out, leaving a blank canvas that the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) is now calling Zone 1.
It will, ultimately, be up to OPC to decide how to fill the space. But the organization asked community members in November what they want to see there. More than 1,000 voiced their opinions, and those opinions are varied.
An OPC blog post last week showed some high-level opinions. But a Wednesday post got into the nitty-gritty. The opinions came from a series of more-detailed questions. These asked about the kinds of trails people wanted to see, or natural features, structures, recreation elements, events, gardens, and commercial activities.
Most surveyed want more hiking trails.
”Running trails either paved or unpaved connected with the rest of the park,” reads one comment. “The park needs a trail or sidewalk that rings the entire park.”
Most all wanted to expand the forest area, but many also suggested more grassland, ponds, and more.
”Expanding forest is important but I hope there is a balance,” reads a comment. “We need forest but open green lawns are nice, too.”
The structures included in the survey were a mix of commercial space and public space. Most wanted a nature center, but they also hoped to have an outdoor classroom, rental space for events, a restaurant or retail space, and an Overton Park Welcome Center.
”I’m not real keen on structures, but if there has to be one, it should likely be something that feeds money to the [OPC] to help run the park,” reads a comment. “Restaurant, food vendor, coffee shop.”
Related to that question was one more broadly about commercial activities in the park. OPC said that of those who left comments on the survey, “the most popular response was ’none,’ which didn’t surprise us. We know that there is a strong desire among park supporters to focus on the natural aspects of the park.”
“We also know that it will take considerable funds to convert a 13-acre vehicle maintenance facility into a place people will want to visit, and that our current business model (which relies on private donations for 85 percent of the costs of operating the park) is not sustainable in the long term,” the OPC said in the post. “That’s why we’re exploring thoughtful ways to generate revenue.”
Food trucks were the most popular commercial activity suggested by the public. It was followed by a plant nursery, a stand for a cafe or concessions, equipment and game rentals, and a restaurant.
”Don’t picture a fast food franchise,” said the OPC. “We’re looking for something memorable and unique that enhances the Overton Park experience, and it’s so valuable to know what you envision that to be.”
For full survey results, visit the OPC online here