Memphis Zoo officials removed 27 trees from the Overton Park Greensward earlier this week with no notice given to the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC), which said the move was “entirely unacceptable.”
A statement from OPC Wednesday said the zoo removed the trees to make way for more parking on the Greensward and the first removal was to be the first of an ongoing efforts to remove more trees.
“The Memphis Zoo’s recent actions are in stark contrast to the collaborative effort underway by OPC and all the park partner institutions to identify parking, access, and transportation solutions that best fit the needs of all park users and stakeholders,” OPC executive director Tina Sullivan said in a statement.
Once OPC officials noticed the missing trees on Monday, Jan. 11, they contacted the Memphis Police Department. They learned the zoo was responsible and contacted Doug McGowen, the city’s chief operating officer.
On McGowen’s request, zoo CEO Chuck Brady agreed to take no further action and that the zoo, the city, and OPC would discuss the matter further. OPC has requested that the zoo return the trees, which were donated.
The tree removal was reported by the Greensward advocacy group Get Off Our Lawn on Facebook Wednesday afternoon in a post that read, in part: “Once again, zoo leaders show their commitment to conservation by destroying local habitat.”
Sullivan said OPC will likely announce the hiring of a consultant in the next few days for a parking and traffic study for Overton Park.
"We are confident that several immediate, achievable, and affordable alternatives to Greensward parking already exist," Sullivan said. "These alternatives will be thoroughly explored, vetted, and refined over the coming months in an open and transparent process that engages all park stakeholders."