Saturday, March 15, 2008

Down With Fence, Up With Spring

Okay, so the Memphis Zoo thinks we don't have a right to criticize their Teton Trek clearcut because we should have been able to read their collective mind.

Zoo director Chuck Brady told the Commercial Appeal that he was surprised at the public outcry against the Teton Trek clearcut.


"This project has been part of the master plan for 20 years," zoo spokesperson Brian Carter told Eyewitness News on Monday. "We feel as though the community has had ample opportunity to speak about our plans and the plans for Overton Park. And we're always taking in comments by e-mail and phone."

(You can email the Memphis Zoo at zooinfo@memphiszoo.org or phone 901-276-9453.)

But as Stacey described on Tuesday, public transparency and accountability do not seem to be priorities for the Memphis Zoo. It's true that the zoo recently updated its website to include a drawing of its 2001 master plan, but that drawing doesn't mention Teton Trek by name -- or Northwest Passage, for that matter -- and it certainly does not depict a four-acre clearcut.


Another recently added section of the Memphis Zoo's website contains this intriguing paragraph:

ON THE HORIZON
The Zoo is nearing the end of the current master plan and will be working soon to create a new 10-year master plan. Please check back soon to read details about how the process begins
Is it safe to assume that the planning process for this new 10-year master plan will give the citizens of Memphis a chance to mold the future of the zoo with our sweaty little paws? We'll keep you posted.

Finally, the Memphis Zoo's new Teton Trek FAQ states:
The 17 1/2 acres of Zoo land near Rainbow Lake has never been planned for major development. The Zoo's master plan has reserved this area for a minimal impact forest trail exhibit.
Doesn't this make you wonder why anyone would pay to walk along an Old Forest trail when we can already do that for free? It seems unlikely that the zoo would bother to erect a big fancy chain link fence around 17.5 acres of forest -- which, by the way, is still our land, not "Zoo land" -- if it did not intend to use that land for money-making exhibits.


It's important to remember that without the tireless efforts of the original CPOP in the 1960s and 70s, a large swath of this fenced-off forest would already be dead and buried under concrete. Are we willing to stand by and watch as this hallowed ground is devoured, a few acres at a time, by the Memphis Zoo?

We believe it's high time for the Memphis Zoo to tear down the fence and return this 17.5 acres to the citizens who own it. Public parkland does not belong in a cage.

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