City Reporter 

City Reporter

Turning a Farm Into a Park

Proposal could change Shelby Farms into Shelby Park.

By Mary Cashiola

After all the "Save Shelby Farms" bumper stickers that adorned nearly every car in Memphis, it might be a park that really saves Shelby Farms.

"It all started with an argument about a road going through Shelby Farms," says Ron Terry, former CEO of First Tennessee Bank, about a proposal to change the county-funded Shelby Farms to a privately endowed park.

Terry, the person behind the proposal, says that "after the construction of Walnut Grove was suitable to satisfy the traffic needs of the county and the conservation needs of the people about a year ago, [county] mayor [Jim] Rout asked me to do some dreaming about what could be done with Shelby Farms."

What he dreamed up was a conservancy much like the one New York's Central Park operates under; what he found was that there was substantial private funding available to make that dream a reality.

On Monday, Mayor Rout asked that the presentation of the new Shelby Park Conservancy proposal be deferred until May, when all the documentation will be ready.

But with so many people loving the way the park is now, why change it?

"Quite simply," says Terry, "in 20 years, that piece of ground will be situated in the middle of 2 million people, either chopped up or as the major park for this community. We can be proactive and make it the major park it could be or we can wait and see what happens. We choose to be proactive."

It won't be exactly like Central Park, says Terry, but there will be similarities.

"[New Yorkers] have 840 acres between 10 million people; we have 4,000 acres situated between 1 million people," he says. "We are looking for what's going to happen in 20 to 30 years; we're taking the long view of the development of the park. What the Central Park Conservatory has done has really influenced our thinking."

What will be similar to Central Park is the diverse activities available to the public.

"In what we hope to call Shelby Park, people will find a variety of things they enjoy doing," says Terry, whose vision includes lakes, wetlands, and pastoral open spaces; paths for hiking, running, biking, skating, and horseback riding; and internal public roads and other appropriate amenities.

Except for the uncertainty of county employees' jobs after the switch to a private foundation, interim superintendent of Shelby Farms Steve Satterfield is in favor of the plan.

"This could be the premier park not only in the region but the nation," says Satterfield. "In 20 years, the demands on the park will be so great. We have to ask ourselves, do we continue to let the county crisis-manage those demands in competition with schools or jails for funding or do we put in place a private funding mechanism?"

"People will not give to county government. The money disappears into a black hole. They will give money to a private organization because they know it goes directly to their cause," says Satterfield.

For the plan to work, the county commission has to dissolve the Shelby Farms board and the state legislature has to dissolve the Agricenter Commission.

Neither move, says Terry, is intended to be critical of those boards as they are right now. "If the land is going to be developed as a park, it has to be developed as one piece rather than several pieces."

"I think he's right," says Satterfield. "In the long term, I think this is the only way to make that piece of ground into what it could be." n

Arresting Behavior?

Two musicians claim police harassment after park festival.

By Mary Cashiola

After jamming at the Earth Day FESTIVAL at the Overton park Shell on Sunday night, two Midtown musicians were walking the few blocks back to the house where they were staying. While they walked, they talked about how much fun the event had been.

That's when, at the entrance to Overton Park, Shane Hutcheson and Chris Sawyer say they were caught in the beam of a police spotlight.

"We hadn't done anything," says Hutcheson, "so I just kept on walking, to be straight-up honest."

Comparing the incident to "watching COPS from the very front row," Hutcheson says two officers asked them where they thought they were going before pushing them against the police car and frisking them.

"They kept asking, 'What do you have on you?' " says Hutcheson. "I had a drink about four hours before, but that was it."

Sawyer and Hutcheson both say they asked repeatedly what they had done to be detained. When the officers wouldn't answer, Sawyer asked one for his badge number.

"When I asked for his badge number," says Sawyer, "he kicked me down to the curb."

"[The officer] kicked his legs out from under him," says Hutcheson. "He hit the curb when he fell, so he's got a pretty deep cut in his lower back. He's got two fractured lumbar."

Next, the two men were put in the squad car, but Sawyer was bleeding and it was apparent that he was hurt. He was taken out of the car and says that the officer who kicked him told him he didn't mean to hurt him.

"He said, 'I think I need to arrest you and take you to the Med.' I said, 'No, sir, just let me go. I won't say anything.' That's when he let me go, when I said I wouldn't say anything," says Sawyer. The officer then gave him a cigarette.

Sawyer never got the officer's badge number or name, but after spending the night at Methodist Hospital, he filed a report Monday morning with the Memphis Police Department.

"I had drank a little bit," says Sawyer, "but it had been at least two hours. I wasn't being loud or obnoxious.The only thing we were doing was that we were in the park after it was closed. But there were other people still there."

"Honestly, it was uncalled for," says Hutcheson. "Yeah, I had on bell- bottoms and an old KISS T-shirt. My friend had long hair. ... I could understand it if we were walking through the park with a 40, but we were just walking. They could have asked what we were doing first before they slammed us on the car and frisked us."

They say that during the entire incident, the officers never told them why they had been stopped. And it still doesn't make much sense to them.

"There were two police officers, so if there had been a really bad problem, one of them could have called for backup," says Hutcheson.

The police department's public information officer, LaTonya Able, confirmed Monday that the MPD is looking into allegations of excessive force by an officer in this incident but could not release information relating to the matter.

However, Able did say, "We have zero tolerance in regard to any criminal activity or misconduct." n

A Happy Ending

Runaway teen finally returns home okay.

By Rebekah Gleaves

Hazel Morgan sleeps a little bit easier these days. Last week, her 17-year-old daughter, Erica Morgan-Shoemake, returned home. Morgan now reports that Erica is receiving counseling and that the two are in the process of putting their lives back together.

"I'm still a little confused," says Morgan. "She hasn't opened up and said where she was staying, but I'm just glad to see that she's okay."

The Flyer reported on March 15th that Erica, a Central High School student, had disappeared on November 20th without leaving any indication where she had gone. After talking with several of Erica's friends, Morgan learned that Erica had been dating an older man and might be staying with him and several other adults in a Tipton County home. Morgan reported Erica to the police department for vagrancy and told officers that she might be staying in the Tipton County home. Police were dispatched to the home several times but were unable to find Erica.

"The police have not dropped the case, but they can't do anything unless Erica tells them who she was with," says Morgan. "Right now, they haven't talked with Erica about anything." n

A Smart Start

Early-childhood plan reports positive beginning.

By Janel Davis

Since getting a $650,000 grant from Le Bonheur Health Services, Inc., the Early Childhood Collaborative Alliance (ECCA) is on its way to attacking the root causes that affect the well-being of young children.

Phase I, or the assessment phase, of the program has developed a Web-based Shelby County health directory, identified best-practice intervention models, and encouraged the interest of the local community in an early-intervention collaborative.

According to ECCA executive director Barbara Holden, those goals have been reached.

"The directory will be posted on the Le Bonheur Web site in the next few weeks," she says, "listing daycares and other services for parents."

ECCA also reviewed the national best practices for children prenatal through 5 years of age. Programs like visitations by health-care workers to new mothers were researched to determine their effectiveness. To reach communities, focus groups were formed, headed by representatives from area organizations, including the University of Memphis, Girls Club, Inc., and the UT Health Science Center.

"We conducted clinics at 40 locations to determine what services community residents were receiving and what services they would like to see," says Pamela Coleman, a focus-group facilitator and associate executive director of Porter Leath Children's Center. "Interestingly, results of the clinics were the same wherever we were. People reported that they wanted and needed the same services."

From the findings, a preliminary recommendation for a community institute for early childhood was proposed. The institute would facilitate efforts for children through their preschool years. Its board would include representatives from hospitals, county and city governments, and school systems.

The collaborative's next step is coordinating efforts with the Smart Start Initiative in North Carolina and working with local community and religious leaders to communicate its efforts.

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