Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Free the forest

As I ranted about previously, the Memphis Zoo released concept drawings in late July for their proposed 17-acre Chickasaw Bluffs exhibit, which would be located due south of the Teton Trek exhibit and due east of Rainbow Lake.

The leaders of the Memphis Zoo are inviting the public to comment on this proposed exhibit (a 180-degree policy shift that CPOP applauds and wants to encourage) so please take a minute to view the concept sketches and send 'em your opinion if you haven't done so already.

As you know, CPOP's position is that the 17 acres of publicly owned old growth forest should be unfenced and returned to Overton Park for free public use. This does not mean we think boardwalks are evil or that the Old Forest should be preserved in amber. On the contrary, we work hard to promote public use of Overton Park's existing forest trails through our free twice-monthly nature walks and other activities.

But given the Memphis Zoo's track record in the past year and a half -- clearcutting four acres of old growth forest for Teton Trek, clearing a 20-foot strip of forest understory around the perimeter of the 17 acres, and replacing two acres of forest understory with a mulched picnic area -- we have no evidence that the Zoo is capable of being a good steward of the Old Forest.

It is clear that the leaders of the Memphis Zoo place very little value on the ecological integrity of the Old Forest. They see nothing wrong with annihilating the understory (which contains 80% of the forest's plant species) and last year they refused to allow access to the 17 acres for the botanical survey that was commissioned by Park Services. They don't even want to know what they're destroying.

CPOP would love to believe that the Memphis Zoo will do better in the future. However, the leaders of the Zoo have never apologized or shown the slightest public regret for their many hypocritical actions, so we can only assume they will continue to treat the Old Forest like toilet paper.

And that's why we still say: DOWN WITH FENCE.

If you agree that our public parkland should be unfenced, we have a petition you'll want to sign. Please stop by CPOP's booth at the Cooper-Young Festival this Saturday, September 19, 9:00am to 7:00pm, on the east side of Cooper between Elzey and Evelyn. We'll also have plenty of shirts, stickers, and free hugs for treehuggers!