By Bruce Van Wyngarden
Spring came to Memphis last weekend. A week earlier, we were "buried" in eight inches of snow — a freakish occurence in this old Southern town. But last Saturday, we got back on course with a sunny, warm day designed by spring's PR department. In Overton Park, the denizens of Memphis gathered to celebrate.
Well, they didn't actually "gather," rather they filled the place up. The Zoo parking lot was packed. The walking trails were full of joggers, strollers, dog-walkers, and cyclists. The funky little golf course was doing box-office business. The swingsets and slides had lots of little customers. And in the center of it all — the massive greensward — it seemed half of the city was out enjoying the sun.
Kites were flying. Dogs were running in circles, chasing balls, sticks, and each other. An ultimate Frisbee game occupied part of the field; soccer players kicked around a ball in another section; a father and son played catch. The motley collection of drummers that assembles on nice days provided a soundtrack for it all. If there's a more important — and more used — recreational space for Midtown than the greensward, I have yet to see it.
So when I read the news that city engineers were proposing to turn a football-field-sized patch of the greensward into a "detention basin" to catch the occasional overflow from Lick Creek, I was surprised, to say the least.
I've walked Lick Creek with my children on many occasions. It's less a creek than a concrete culvert, but 10-year-olds think it's great fun to explore and delight in collecting salamanders and the occasional golf ball.
The problem is, after heavy rains, Lick Creek overflows and floods a nice neighborhood — Bellair — just south of the park. The detention basin, say city engineers, would fix that problem. They cite similar basins on the Audubon Park golf course and allege that we would hardly know it's there. Except when it rains hard, of course, at which time users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the greensward. Or afterward, a large muddy, trash-filled depression.
C'mon, folks. This is Memphis' Central Park. There's got to be another solution. And if I know Midtown and its neighborhood groups, I suspect a great deal of pressure will be put upon city engineers to find one. Here's hoping they succeed.