Overton Park jammed during the week of Spring Break 2013.
Kids had a blast at the Brooks Chalk Art Festival, golfers played the course, dogs and dog lovers socialized at Overton Bark, picnickers spread across the Greensward and the East Parkway picnic area, hikers got a preview of Spring in the Old Forest, and animal lovers -- lots of them -- took their families to the Memphis Zoo.
Traffic was backed up to East Parkway waiting to turn into the Park at Tucker. People with small children walked from parking spaces near Poplar all the way to the Zoo gates. Park streets were packed with cars, driven and parked, legal and illegally. And the Greensward was filled with cars.
There's no doubt that the investments and attention that the Overton Park Conservancy has made in the past year have been a huge success. Layer those on top of the work of the park institutions -- the Levitt Shell, the Memphis College of Art, the Brooks, the golf course and the Zoo -- over the decades and the park is an ever-more powerful magnet for Memphis and the region. The rumored arrival of the Eggleston Museum and relocation of the City's maintenance facility would make it even stronger. And that attraction is pulling the Park closer to Parking Lot.
The Park needs a permanent and Overton-Park-quality fix for its parking needs. The Greensward will no longer do as a parking pit. When used as a surface parking lot in the middle of a public greenspace, it's intrusive, destructive, butt-ugly and unworthy of the Park.
The continued success of the Zoo and the Park requires a real solution that puts people first.
It's time to free the Greensward and tame the gridlock.
The Citizens to Preserve Overton Park recommend this course of action:
- 2013: All money taken in by the Memphis Zoo for parking on the Greensward should be devoted to creating a permanent parking solution for the Park as a whole. The OPC, the Zoo and all park-loving citizens should vigorously lobby both the City and private institutions to find the money and space for a permanent parking fix.
- 2014: All overflow parking from all Park institutions should be directed to nearby locations such as the new Overton Square parking garage, Snowden School parking lot, Crosstown Arts parking, etc., with shuttles connecting them to the Park. All parking on the Greensward will stop.
- 2015 and beyond: The Park and Zoo should either build a parking garage in the Zoo maintenance area to handle the Zoo's huge demand, or devise a permanent shuttling alternative. A parking garage is a very expensive solution that the City may have trouble funding after the Overton Square garage. The Chalk Art Festival at the Brooks Museum on the Thursday of Spring Break used a shuttle supplied by the OPC and Premier Transportation to bring ~100 visitors to the park from Crosstown Arts. Overton Square's new parking garage would be an excellent shuttle destination for the Zoo and other Park institutions and events.