I ran across this interesting essay that was published two years ago in a Seventh Day Adventist magazine. The author, John McLarty, gives an insightful child's-eye view of that first fight to preserve Overton Park. He also links the secular preservation of parkland with the religious preservation of a Sabbath day.
The following paragraphs stood out for me, but the whole article is worth reading:
Nearly everyone I knew was outraged by this woman’s opposition to the park. Memphis desperately needed an expressway. And the park route was the most obvious, least expensive, and most politically feasible. Figuring it was just a matter of time before common sense prevailed, the state moved ahead with construction. They built the freeway to within a couple of miles of the park on the east, and purchased the right-of-way and demolished houses right up to the park border.
. . .
The court battles dragged on for 20 years. The park won. There is a gap in the interstate in the middle of Memphis. Interstate 40 is routed around Memphis on the northern beltway. Most of those who 30 years ago thought the old woman was crazy, now realize the wisdom of her opposition to cutting up the park with an expressway. When they take their grandkids to the zoo, they’re glad it’s not bordered by a thundering highway. It’s good that the view from the art academy north does not feature fences, exit signs and passing semis. And it’s right that when you golf or take your kids for a walk in the woods, you hear birds, not traffic.
. . .
Open space in a city must be fiercely defended or it will be used for “more productive” purposes. Without champions to stop it, the press of development will occupy every square inch, leaving the city terribly impoverished.
. . .
The frenzied pace of our culture is pressuring us to build multiple freeways through the few open spaces left in our lives. The requirements of commerce and personal achievement threaten to completely dominate the human landscape. Don’t let it happen in your life. Keep the freeway out of the park, and not just for yourself. Our persistence in park-tending will ensure that the woods, zoo, duck pond and picnic tables -- the tranquillity -- remain available for our children, grandchildren and neighbors. Our stubborn Sabbath keeping serves to preserve a priceless sanctuary, an irreplaceable park in time, for generations to come.