Turner, Strickland lay out plans and address criticism of parks’ sale

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Greenspace Inc., the group that purchased two controversial city parks Wednesday,  announced plans for recently purchased public parks after the removal of two Confederate statues during a press conference Thursday morning.

Memphis Greenspace purchased Health Sciences Park off Union and Memphis Park off Front St. for $1,000 each. They plan  to renovate the parks so they can be a safe place for children and more accessible to the public.

Van Turner, the director of the organization and a Shelby County commissioner, led the press conference. He addressed critics of the purchase during the press conference.

“This is not a shady deal. It’s a legal deal,” he said. “I presented this solution to Bruce McMullen, the city attorney for the city of Memphis, and he has consistently been an advocate for the removal of these statues legally.”

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, also addressed criticism of the city’s handling of the matter, saying both the City Council and County Commission had unanimously voted in support of action on the statues and the ordinance to sell the parks had been included in City Council agendas for weeks.

“I don’t see it as secretive at all,” he said.

As far as he knew, there were no plans for the Forrest family gravesites at Health Sciences Park, but that the Forrest family would be involved in any plans.

Related: Mayor says “History is being made in Memphis” as Confederate statues removed

Memphis Greenspace purchased Health Sciences Park and Confederate Park just before the statues were removed Wednesday night.

According to paperwork obtained by the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office the non-profit organization was formed on Oct 5, 2017 and Turner said it is currently in the process of obtaining 501(C)3 status from the IRS.

The city of Memphis said property sales do not have to be  put out for bid and an ordinance amended by the city council allows the mayor to sell property to a non-profit for less than market value, saying this was discussed publicly for several months at city council.

Turner says he is humbled by the response of the city in the wake of the removal of the Confederate statues and hopes to do more for other parks.

“We envision the transfer of other parks to the non-profit. We can go out and raise funds for those parks and put playgrounds on the parks,” said Turner.

“We look to the future to create spaces, including all parks, that welcome all Memphians.”

Related: Removal of Confederate statues leads to mixed reactions