Memphis Zoo supports OPC parking study, makes own proposal

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- After reviewing the Overton Park Conservancy Parking Study, the Memphis Zoo says it supports several of the proposals made.

The Zoo made its own proposal, saying the 16-acre Memphis General Service maintenance area on the east side of the park could be used for parking and would save citizens from having to pay for a parking garage.

However, the Zoo expressed concern over the challenge of getting visitors, especially young families and the elderly, from the area to the main entrance.

"The Memphis Zoo will continue to work toward a long-term solution, and we believe many of these ideas are workable toward creating the 1,500 parking spaces needed on the most busy days," the Zoo said in a released statement.

In addition, the news release stated the Memphis Zoo had made approximately $25,000 from parking on the Greensward.

That money, they said, will be used to restore and repair the Greensward.

The following is the entire new release from the Zoo:

The Memphis Zoo would like to thank all those who participated in the OPC parking study. We think this is a great opportunity for collaboration, and hope the suggestions and dialogue will lead to a parking solution for the many visitors to the Zoo and Overton Park. It is important to remember that the Zoo's master plan initially called for 1,250 spots in the main lot, and about half of those spaces were in what is now called the Greensward. So, we look forward to working with the City, the OPC and other stakeholders  as we work to find safe, convenient alternatives for our patrons.

Regarding the OPC Proposal:

• Several of the suggestions including coordinating communication, parking apps and better pedestrian and bicycle entrances to the park are encouraged, and we hope these can be expedited quickly.

• If the City and OPC can find funding, we have no opposition to a tasteful, environmentally friendly parking structure on Prentiss Place. We are on board and willing to make every effort to match fundraising provided by the OPC. We encourage the input of neighbors and the citizens of Memphis on this suggestion.

• We are open to exploring the OPC’s plan to reconfigure our existing parking lot – provided we do not decimate 150 mature trees. From past experience, we recognize that many of our visitors and neighbors do not want a parking lot that resembles a shopping mall. We do believe it is possible to add more parking spaces and still respect the beauty and integrity of the park. We encourage the OPC to join us in fighting to protect our grand and gorgeous trees.

A Proposal from the ZOO:

• In an effort to save taxpayers the cost of building a garage, we propose looking into another option that could easily create a minimum of 650 additional spaces, likely more. We suggest using the 16-acre Memphis General Service maintenance area on the east side of the park. There would be challenges associated with getting visitors from that lot to the Zoo due to the distance, particularly the disabled and elderly, but we believe there are eco-friendly options that could be deployed that are not disruptive to the park. Some visitors will choose to walk. In the General Service Area, there would also be enough space to create a Greensward II, another large open green space in addition to the existing Greensward.

The Memphis Zoo will continue to work toward a long-term solution, and we believe many of these ideas are workable toward creating the 1,500 parking spaces needed on the most busy days.

Last year the Overton Park Conservancy made more than $25,000 in renting the Greensward out for group activities. We too made a similar amount on parking on the Greensward. The Memphis Zoo will be allocating all our fees collected for parking on the Greensward toward restoration and repair of the Greensward and toward the long-term parking solution. Both the Memphis Zoo and Overton Park are owned by the citizens of Memphis, and our ability to share is needed until we can settle on a long-term plan.

Recent events have highlighted what an incredible asset both provide for the city. It is in everyone’s interest to work together to find the best solution available.