Farm Futures 

Teens and adults differ on ideas for Shelby Farms.

Four generations — some old enough for their AARP cards and others too young to drive — gathered at Shelby Farms Visitor's Center Saturday, December 1st, to brainstorm about the future of Shelby Farms Park.

At 1 p.m., about 30 adults, ranging in age from late 20s to early 80s, gathered at the center as part of a series of public input sessions. Later in the day, nearly 30 teens met in the same room for the same purpose, but their ideas couldn't have been more different.

"I don't want to see more development," said Travis Handwerker, a middle-aged man who frequents the park to walk his dog. "I want to see the naturalness enhanced. I don't want to see hot dog stands."

Another man at the early-afternoon meeting echoed his concern: "I'd hate to see vendors come in."

But hours later, several teens pitched the idea of opening a "green café" serving coffee and healthy snacks.

"How close is the nearest restaurant? And I'm not talking about a McDonald's," said 17-year-old Nick Finlayson of Middle College High School.

The Shelby Farms Conservancy asked attendees to place suggestions on notecards. The ideas will be compiled in a report and presented to the three design firms selected as finalists in the Shelby Farms master planning process.

Hargreaves and Associates of San Francisco, Berkeley-based Tom Leader Studio, and New York City's Field Operations will use the input in their master plans. Those plans will be unveiled to the public in March during another set of input meetings.

"Many people are concerned about overdevelopment. They don't want the park to lose its natural feel," said Laura Adams, interim director of public engagement and development for the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.

Adams said the most common requests have been more bathrooms, improvements to the outdoor amphitheater, and adding rustic camping sites. Sustainable energy, such as solar panels on the visitor's center or windmill energy, are also recurring themes.

At the teen meeting, suggestions were a little more far-reaching. In addition to an eatery, teens would like to see a ropes course, a rock-climbing wall, a seasonal ice-skating rink, and a swimming pool with a water slide. One teenager even suggested a water park.

"Change is always good. That's something that people [in the adult meetings] may have a problem with, but you have to develop this park to get teens to come out and use it," said 17-year-old Brandon Asemah, president of the Shelby Farms Youth Alliance. "Memphis is not very teen or kid-friendly. Why do you think we have so much crime?"

Finlayson agreed. Though he lives in Midtown, he says he rarely visits nearby Overton Park because there's nothing to do.

"Parks just being parks aren't that appealing to teens," said Finlayson.

But the adults and teens did agree on a few things: They'd like to see the park stay open later with nighttime family activities, such as live music or astronomy programs. And everyone seemed to agree that the restrooms could use an upgrade.

Said Memphis University School senior Chris Bloodworth: "It's not groundbreaking or revolutionary, but how about some real bathrooms at this place?"


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