Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Exercise your right to petition

We, the undersigned, petition the Mayor of Memphis and the Memphis City Council to remove the fence that surrounds 17 acres of Overton Park’s old growth forest.

In 1988, the City Council designated 33 acres of Overton Park as an expansion area for the Memphis Zoo. In the past 21 years, the Zoo has developed 16 acres of that expansion area for new exhibits. All of this publicly owned parkland is inaccessible to citizens who cannot afford to pay the Zoo’s entry fees.

We believe the surviving 17 acres of old growth forest should be unfenced and returned to Overton Park for free public use by the citizens who own it. Please give it back.

We need your help! If you can volunteer a few hours to help circulate our petition, please email us at overtonparkforever@gmail.com.

Click the image to biggify and print, or download the PDF.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We prefer sunshine

Today's Commercial Appeal has a large story about the opening of the Memphis Zoo's Teton Trek exhibit. The article repeats the idea that we objected to the clearcut because 139 trees were removed. It also repeats Zoo CEO/Prez Chuck Brady's claim that Teton Trek was part of the 1988 Overton Park Master Plan and was publicly known.

We'd like to set the record straight, once again, on those two misconceptions.

Firstly: The Zoo did cut 139 trees (give or take a few) whose trunks ranged from 10 inches to 42 inches in diameter. They also cut hundreds, if not thousands, of trees smaller than 10 inches in diameter. They bulldozed more than 200 different species of shrubs, vines and wildflowers, and displaced hundreds of native wildlife species. In short, they annihilated four acres of publicly-owned old growth forest in order to bury it under asphalt and fake rock.

And that's what we objected to.

Secondly: Last year we met with the Zoo and were told we had no right to be upset about the Teton Clearcut because it was in the 1988 Overton Park Master Plan for everyone to see. We asked for a copy of that plan and Chuck Brady said he did not have one. We asked Memphis Park Services for a copy; they couldn't find it. We tried the Memphis Public Library -- no dice.

We finally called the consultant who prepared the plan and he dug his last copy out of storage for us. We think it's fair to say this document was not publicly available.

As it turns out, the 1988 Overton Park Master Plan contains no reference to Teton Trek. It just shows a forest marked "Zoo II Expansion." If you want to see for yourself, you can download our scan, but good luck trying to find it anywhere else.

At our meeting last year, we also asked Chuck Brady for a copy of the Memphis Zoo's internal master plan. He told us the Zoo did not have a written master plan. A few weeks later, Memphis Park Services gave us a look at the Zoo's internal master plan (the one Chuck Brady said didn't exist) but they did it totally by accident. The Memphis Zoo says they are working on a new master plan now. Their current master plan is still not available to the public.

We won't go so far as to call the Teton Clearcut a secret plan -- we know that its details were quietly reviewed and approved by Memphis Park Services, the Office of Planning & Development, and several board members of Park Friends Inc. -- but it was not truly a public plan until the bulldozers hit the ground.

Even today, the Memphis Zoo's Teton Trek demolition plan is only available on our website. How's that for irony?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Free hugs for treehuggers

Don't forget to stop by CPOP's booth at the Cooper-Young Festival tomorrow -- Saturday, September 19, 9:00am to 7:00pm -- to sign our petition and claim your free hug. If you're not a hugger, we will also offer free fist-bumps and air-kisses.

Our booth will be near the north end of the festival, on the east side of Cooper between Elzey and Evelyn. We'll have plenty of our popular "Save the Old Forest" shirts, a limited edition of our new "Lorax Has a Posse" shirt, and free CPOP stickers for everyone!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We say pawpaw, they say Paw Paw...

... let's call the whole thing Asimina triloba!

We just got a nice note from a Washington DC blog called The Natural Capital, thanking us for slapping a Creative Commons license on Old Forest photos like this one:
Pawpaw fruits

Their pawpaw post is very informative and also includes other, much better, photos of pawpaw trees and fruits. (They think the distinctive smell emitted by crushed pawpaw leaves is similar to kerosene, whereas we think it smells exactly like tomato plants, but otherwise they're spot on.)

And now we know that pawpaw fruits ripen a month later in DC than they do in Memphis. Local pawpaw fanatics -- you know who you are -- don't forget to exploit this intel as you plan future vacations!

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!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Old Forest Hike -- In Moving Pictures!

Okay, so it doesn't actually have much footage from last week's hike. But it does convey the beautiful peace of the Old Forest.

To quote Ed Wood, "my next one will be better."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Clueless about the ecosystem

Letters to the Editor
Thursday, September 3, 2009 - The Commercial Appeal
Clueless about the ecosystem

Given the worldwide awareness of the importance of the ecosystem and the incredibly parochial attitudes of U.S. citizens, I'm not surprised that the Memphis Zoo got away with the disgraceful clear-cutting and total lack of responsive planning with regard to Teton Trek. However, I will campaign as much as I can, as will many of the homeowners in the area of Overton Park, against the egregious and continual erosion of the Old Forest ecosystem by zoo leadership.

The zoo's plans do not demonstrate a conscious awareness of the plant species in the understory of the trees.

It is unclear why the zoo does not renovate its shabby and decaying older zoo areas, while expanding, like a behemoth, into the Old Forest.

Tina Barr