There are free places to park in the neighborhood (my neighborhood) around the Zoo. There are even local volunteers called the FREE PARKING BRIGADE that will show you where to park and help you cross intersections safely. Trinity Methodist Church offers their lot on Saturdays and Snowden School offers their lot all weekend.
If you decide that yes, I want to pay $5 to park, and you are then flagged into a grassy area: STOP! TURN AROUND! YOU’RE ABOUT TO PARK IN OVERTON PARK, on our precious GREENSWARD! Should you turn around,not only will your conscience be free and clear, but Overton Park Conservancy supporters will cheer you! (It will be from behind a horrid metal barricade erected by the Zoo, but you’ll be cheered nonetheless!)
Listen, I’ve owned a home in EHD (Evergreen Historic District) for 11 years. For 10 of those years, I’ve been a Zoo member. In addition, I’ve sent my daughter to countless Zoo camps, and have bought tickets to events like Zoo Brew, Zoo Boo and Zoo Lights.
My choice to support the zoo has been for three reasons:
1) They’re our neighbors. Just like my choice to dine locally, I want to support the amenities available to my family that are right in my own back yard.
2) I believe that the Zoo keepers have a passion for the animals, and that’s important to me. Go to any Keeper Chat and listen to them talk about the animal in their care. Often, they sound like they’re talking about family! “The Keepers,” a recent documentary film about the Memphis zookeepers, highlights these relationships. In addition, the different keepers that my daughter has met at various camps really educated and enlightened her about different habitats, conservation, and our fragile eco-system.
3) I believe in, and support Memphis. To support Memphis, is to support the entities that are moving our river town FORWARD. I always thought that having a world class Zoo, a Zoo that brings in tourism dollars, a Zoo who claims it’s vision is to be a world leader in conservation was one of those entities.
But continuing to use our historic park (yes, Overton Park, the very one just featured in the PBS production of “10 Parks that changed AMERICA” -emphasis added- for overflow parking is absurd. Continuing to not consider a parking garage, shuttles, or even redesigning their existing lot is ridiculous. What other entity could continue to add exhibits, yet not provide a parking solution to the many visitors they hope to attract? Polluting the public park right outside their front gates defies the very definition of conservation.
Which brings me to the reason why I’m no longer a Zoo member. I took my $99 yearly membership, and became an Overton Park Conservancy member instead ($110- and the whole fam got free t-shirts!) The Conservancy manages 184 acres of the park including the Greensward, Rainbow Lake, the formal gardens, Veteran’s Plaza, the 126-acre Old Forest State Natural Area, and the East Parkway picnic area. I believe in an urban green space. I believe that said space attracts businesses, home owners and supports a sense of community. Finally, I believe that a preservation of the past, is important to our future.
So come, enjoy everything Memphis has to offer this weekend: the great music, the delicious local fare, our new hippo exhibit, and even our historic park but please don’t park on the Greensward!
It’s a park, not a parking lot.