Saturday, April 9, 2016

Zoo Supports Conservancy Parking Plan, Proposes Own Ideas

Posted By on Sat, Apr 9, 2016 at 1:26 PM

  • Overton Park Conservancy
Memphis Zoo officials say they support the recommendations from the recently completed parking study conducted by the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) and that they will allocate parking fees they collect on the Greensward toward long-term parking solutions, including, perhaps, the construction of a parking garage.

The announcement came in a Saturday news release that said the recommendations in the study present a “a great opportunity for collaboration, and we hope the suggestions and dialogue will lead to a parking solution for the many visitors to the zoo and Overton Park.”

Zoo officials said they had no opposition to a “tasteful, environmentally friendly parking structure on Prentiss Place.”

“We are on board and willing to make every effort to match fundraising provided by the OPC,” the statement said. “We encourage the input of neighbors and the citizens of Memphis on this suggestion.”

Also, the zoo they were open to exploring a plan to reconfigure its current surface lot “provided we do not decimate 150 mature trees” that exist in or near the lot.

“We do believe it is possible to add more parking spaces and still respect the beauty and integrity of the park,” the statement said. “We encourage the OPC to join us in fighting to protect our grand and gorgeous trees.”

Zoo officials said they are on board for suggestions from the study that included providing online parking information, a possible parking app for smartphones, and better pedestrian and bike entrances to the park.

The zoo officials said they also had a few ideas of their own.

Here’s their proposal in full:

“In an effort to save taxpayers the cost of building a garage, we propose looking into another option that could easily create a minimum of 650 additional spaces, likely more.

“We suggest using the 16-acre Memphis General Service maintenance area on the east side of the park. There would be challenges associated with getting visitors from that lot to the zoo due to the distance, particularly the disabled and elderly, but we believe there are eco-friendly options that could be deployed that are not disruptive to the park. Some visitors will choose to walk.

In the General Service Area, there would also be enough space to create a Greensward II, another large open green space in addition to the existing Greensward.”

The statement noted that OPC made more than $25,000 in renting the Greensward for group activities last year. Zoo officials said they made a similar amount on parking on the Greensward.

“The Memphis Zoo will be allocating all our fees collected for parking on the Greensward toward restoration and repair of the Greensward and toward the long-term parking solution,” sad the statement. “Both the Memphis Zoo and Overton Park are owned by the citizens of Memphis, and our ability to share is needed until we can settle on a long-term plan.”

The statement said the zoo needs about 1,500 extra spaces for parking on busy days. The statement said that the zoo’s original master plan called for 1,250 more spaces than it has now. About half of those spaces “were in what is now called the Greensward.”

Finally, the zoo noted the tensions on the Greensward over the past three weekends.

“Recent events have highlighted what an incredible asset both [the zoo and the park] provide for the city,”said the statement. “It is in everyone’s interest to work together to find the best solution available.”

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