Negotiators mum on zoo parking talks

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Greensward space near the Memphis Zoo is at the center of controversy.

The zoo wants it for overflow parking, but park supporters want to keep it green.

"I absolutely think something should be done soon. Parking on the grass doesn't just affect the area that people are parking on the grass. I mean grass is an entire ecosystem, and having fuel and tires all over it affects all of it," Aidan Maneval, a Greensward supporter, said.

For two months the park, zoo and city have been in negotiations.

City Councilman Worth Morgan is one of those at the table.

"I think logistics is a big part of this. We have a very popular park. We have a very popular zoo and other amenities in the park. Just finding creative solutions of where we can actually put all these cars," says Morgan.

He said they are looking for a long-term solution but won't say what ideas are on the table.

"We are looking and talking about everything. It's all hands on deck in terms of creative solutions," Morgan said.

Greensward supporters said there have been suggestions, including parking on the street, in an employee lot and in nearby garages.

"The zoo has rejected every single one of them, and this is their best alternative?" Greensward supporter Rodney Nash said during a protest Saturday.

The zoo said it is trying to work out the best solution, saying in a statement "...the Zoo has made proposals that have been rejected. These include a new overflow lot at General Services along East Parkway, with electric trams to transport visitors through the park on existing paved roads. This, we feel, is an excellent solution, but it has been rejected by park supporters."

As the weather gets warmer, the problem could worsen as more people visit the zoo.

"It has the potential to get worse. I think of lot of that is still we don't know where both parties are in the mediation process. I still would go back to let the mediation process run its course," Memphis City Council Member Martavius Jones said.

Mayor Jim Strickland, who initiated the mediation, said everyone must be patient for whatever comes.

"Hopefully something like a parking garage or shuttle to existing parking garages. I don't think it's that crazy. Parking on the grass is crazy," Maneval said.

Many are hoping a recent parking study will also provide some ideas about how to handle parking in the area around the zoo, but as of now we haven't seen the results of the study.

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