LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Monday, March 29, 2010 - Commercial Appeal
Old Forest needs legal shield
I was delighted to see Naomi Van Tol's March 19 Viewpoint guest column ("We deserve healthy forest, healthy zoo"), and I support completely the efforts of Citizens to Preserve Overton Park to enact the Old Forest State Natural Area bill to protect the Mid-South's last old-growth forest.
As an environmental lawyer, I am aware that Memphis is not exactly on the cutting edge of environmental conservation, with a few notable exceptions. One example of environmental stewardship in our city is the Greater Memphis Greenline, which is in the process of converting approximately 7 miles of the old CSX railroad right-of-way into the Shelby Forest Greenline, a multiuse recreational path and park running from Midtown Memphis to Shelby Farms Park. And, out in Fayette County, in 1995, activists worked with the state of Tennessee to afford protection to more than 2,000 acres of the headwaters of the Wolf River with the designation of the Ghost River State Natural Area.
The Old Forest State Natural Area bill is another great example of environmental protection at work in the Memphis area. The Old Forest is certainly worthy of legal protection.
It is time for the Memphis Zoo to step up and support this legislation. Both the zoo and the Old Forest benefited from the grass-roots efforts of concerned citizens in the early 1970s, when CPOP successfully blocked a proposed extension of Interstate 40 through Overton Park. I hope the Memphis Zoo can recognize the value of the Old Forest by rising to this challenge to further its mission of preservation by working with CPOP and the citizens of Memphis to protect the Old Forest.
Forest needs collaboration
Thank God for those rabble-rousing activist groups like Citizens to Preserve Overton Park and well-spoken and rational leaders like Naomi Van Tol. If not for CPOP and their predecessors, Memphis Zoo CEO Chuck Brady (March 24 Viewpoint guest column, "Conservation easement is right solution") would likely have no public park land to sequester since a (thankfully thwarted) highway would run through Overton Park.
I encourage Brady to meet with CPOP, whose invitation he has rejected, and collaboratively work out a solution that allows the zoo to responsibly redevelop its attractions while granting protection to the remaining Old Forest and its diverse plant and animal inhabitants.
Brady calls the currently unrestricted public forest "an exclusive area for a few citizens," though it's not quite clear how enclosing more park within the zoo boundaries and charging for access will make the forest less exclusive. Right now access to the Old Forest is free to "thousands of schoolchildren." Do they really need to pay to walk on a platform to experience the natural world? Indeed, access to the forest for people with disabilities is important, and I again encourage Brady to talk with CPOP to work toward responsible solutions to the issue.
I am a zoo member and an Old Forest trail user, and I firmly believe that a solution can be found that is of benefit to all.
Monday, March 29, 2010
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR