Mayor allows limited “greensward” parking at Memphis Zoo until the end of 2014

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Mayor AC Wharton gave the zoo permission to let overflow zoo traffic park on the "greensward" again, but only till the end of 2014.

The city and the zoo are trying to work out parking issues after the mayor told the zoo to stop using a section of Overton Park called a "greensward" for zoo parking.

A five-week trial run using shuttle buses to move visitors to and from the zoo has ended, but didn't work out as well as hoped.

Shuttle buses were one of the possible alternatives to parking at the Memphis Zoo, but Abbey Dane, the zoo's marketing director, said the shuttle ended up having a negative effect at the zoo's turnstile.

"We saw a pretty dramatic drop in our attendance during that shuttle trial. Membership attendance alone dropped 22 percent. So it was a pretty dramatic drop for us during a key part of our season," said Dane.

The Overton Park Shuttle started after Mayor Wharton told the zoo to stop parking cars on the "greensward."

The mayor took the action after complaints from a group calling itself "Get Off Our Lawn."

Mayor Wharton said the zoo needed to find other ways to park its overflow traffic, like building a parking garage.

Friday, Laura Nicastro brought her grandson to the Memphis Zoo. She never thought the shuttle idea was a very good one to start with.

"For small kids, getting on a shuttle is probably not the best thing. Especially when you leave because they're tired, you're ready to get in your car," said Nicastro.

Until a long-term solution is reached, the mayor is allowing the zoo to use the "greensward" on a limited basis.

"The mayor has said we have permission to park on the 'greensward' as needed until the end of 2014. And we'll only do that on our highest attendance days when we have absolutely nowhere else to put anyone," said Dane.

Friday morning, there were plenty of parking spaces and the entrance to the "greensward" was blocked with a chain.

Most people told us parkingĀ  wasn't usually a problem, except for some weekends during certain times of the year.

David Keith, from Jackson, Tenn., came to the zoo Friday with his family.

He said the Memphis Zoo is the best he's seen, so it's understandable that parking could be a problem sometime.

But Keith said there are a lot bigger things in life to get upset about.

"You know, you worry about fatal diseases and stuff. You don't worry about having to look a few extra minutes for a parking space, if you're going to enjoy something with your family," said Keith.

Dane said while the zoo and the city are holding discussions to work out parking issues, she hopes zoo goers will continue visiting the zoo, especially this Saturday, when the zoo will celebrate the 50th birthday of Ty, one of its female elephants.


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