You Made This 

The future of Overton Park is in your hands (well, your head, technically).

Overton Park's next phase of revitalization should have your fingerprints all over it.

The park's first phase of revitalization started with user input, too. When the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) began overseeing the park almost seven years ago, a community survey gave them a check list. All those years and nearly $8 million later, the park has upgraded restrooms, new signage, a new Rainbow Lake playground, and much more.

click to enlarge Share your  thoughts on social at - #parkconversations. - OVERTON PARK CONSERVANCY
  • Overton Park Conservancy
  • Share your thoughts on social at #parkconversations.

Tina Sullivan, OPC's executive director, called much of that work "low-hanging fruit," immediate things that were sometimes in dire need of repair. This next phase of revitalization will take a longer view of the park and will allow Memphians to dream big.

"It was time for us to take a step back and do higher level thinking around the future of the park," Sullivan said. "Rather than continuing down the road with ad hoc projects, we wanted to have more of a cohesive plan for the entire park. We decided on this master plan."

The backbone of that master plan is you. OPC contracted with Olivia Haslop, of Endure Fort Design, to bring her expertise of human-centered design to the future of Overton Park. The philosophy basically begins by asking consumers (or in this case, Memphians) what they want, rather than developing and delivering something that companies or organizations hope they'll want.

"That's why OPC is doing a very careful job of having meaningful and deep conversations with park users and others to understand ... their experience in the park and how can we build on that," Haslop said. "We want to roll out things that the community has already bought into, things they've asked for, and are waiting for."

This process began with listening sessions inside the park. Naturally, runners and park advocates spoke up. So, they also reached out to "those communities, neighborhoods, and groups that aren't usually represented in conversations about the park," said Latanyua Robinson, a master-plan consultant with Latrobe LLC. To do that, OPC took its listening ears out of the park and met these groups where they were.

A mix of Memphians — thousands of them — are expected Saturday for the park's annual Day of Merrymaking. The event will, of course, offer music, food, beer, and art, but it will also give visitors a chance to share their ideas on the future of the park.

For example, many will get a first-ever look at the 13-acre General Services lot in the park's southeast corner. It'll be open for parking Saturday. The city is moving the facility and it will soon be a blank slate for Overton Park.

Haslop will collect ideas from Merrymaking guests on just how they'd like to see the lot and other parts of the park developed in the future. Some emergent ideas will be announced during Saturday's event.

OPC will collect public ideas for the rest of the year and funnel them into a design to be unveiled, perhaps, in mid-2019, Sullivan said. When they do, it won't be "here's what we're thinking."

"It's really more, 'this is what you're thinking,'" Sullivan said. "This is what we heard you say you wanted."

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