Friday, July 6, 2012

Memphis Problem? It Really Is The Heat

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 12:57 PM

The heat doesn't get enough blame for our problems.

The heat killed Mud Island river park, even though today, some 30 years after its opening, it has bigger trees, more shade, and some very nice landscaping compared to its early years when, for better or worse, many Memphians visited the park and formed their impressions of it. Is there a sillier sight than those white tents pitched on the southern end of the island for an evening around the old camp fire when it is 90 degrees outside?

The heat on the cobblestone landing yesterday when I took a boat ride was 115 degrees, according to my car thermometer. Put as much money as you want into turning the cobblestones into a tourist attraction and it's just going to be too damn hot in the summer, global warming or no global warming.

The heat on the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge when I walked it last weekend was over 100 degrees. The future bike/pedestrian path on the nearby Harahan Bridge is going to have to confront the same issue when it opens in 2014. Pity the family that sets off on an adventure with the kiddies and wears down when they get to West Memphis.

The heat and summer sun turn the Pyramid into a blinding giant traffic hazard, with a reflective surface hot enough to fry bacon and eggs.

The sun turns the playground at Shelby Farms into a sweat box. It's a really nice playground but don't put bare legs on one of those slides in July.

Tom Lee Park is so hot in the summer that some of its few regular users are the hardcore fitness buffs who use it as a base to run the stairs up the bluff to the Bluffwalk outside my office. If you try that in street clothes you will be soaked after one trip.

A day game at AutoZone Park? Forget it, unless you're sitting in the shade. Same goes for Liberty Bowl Stadium in the opening weeks of football season.

Beale Street Landing, for all its problems, has taken note of one thing: the need for shade, air-conditioning, and a beverage vendor. The Greenline works, in part, because it has a lot of shade. Ditto Overton Park and the new Memphis Botanic Gardens attractions for families.

Bruce Van WynGarden suggests we become America's Nocturnal City on account of the heat. The least we can do is this: Before we go building any more multi-million-dollar tourism amenities, we should ask the boosters and designers a simple question: Will people use this in the summer?

Because, more often than not, the problem is not the funding, the design, the details, the marketing, the City Council, the naysayers, or any lack of imagination. It's the heat, and all the money and marketing in the world can't change it.

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