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Stop Hurting Overton Park

This petition had 2,541 supporters

The Memphis Zoo is harming Overton Park, the crown jewel of Memphis' parks system, and by extension the citizens of Memphis. Many of us are Zoo members; all of us are Memphis taxpayers. We love our Zoo and want it to be part of a thriving Overton Park. 

As the owners of the Zoo, we call on the Zoo leadership and on our elected representatives to implement the following changes immediately to address the damage our Zoo has done to our Park over the past decades and to reduce the chance of further harm.

  • The Zoo should stop parking on the greensward. Over 20 years of parking on Overton Park's greensward has killed the grass, compressed the soil, and carved muddy ruts that make the greensward unusable even when cars are not parked there. The Zoo should till and reseed the affected area, making it suitable once again for its intended uses. 
  • All future Zoo enhancements should include additional parking. Adding or improving exhibits draws additional visitors. The Zoo should find ways to accommodate their guests without harming Overton Park or the surrounding communities. 
  • The Chickasaw Trail exhibit should be canceled and the surrounding fence should be removed. The Zoo fenced off 17 acres of forested land, formerly accessible to park visitors, with a chain-link fence and barbed wire. It plans to develop an exhibit called Chickasaw Trail on this site. The fence is a visual blight, and the Chickasaw Trail will be worse. 
  • The Zoo should conceal the back side of the Teton Trek exhibit from the view of park users. The Zoo clear-cut 4 acres of old-growth forest to make room for the Teton Trek exhibit. The structures associated with this exhibit were placed too close to the park boundary and continue to damage the park by exposing park users to an industrial-style landscape that is completely inappropriate to a park setting. Some of the buildings may need to be relocated. An architectural firm experienced in park design should be retained to fix this problem. 
  • The Zoo should stop using park roads as service roads. This practice damages the roads, puts park users at risk, and interferes with the normal use of the park. 
  • The Zoo should establish a procedure for seeking community  input on all future plans. The Zoo's biggest mistakes followed from decisions that were made without public review. Public input will help to prevent further damage to the park and to the Zoo's reputation and relationships. 
  • The Zoo should respect its boundaries. The Zoo has claimed too much parkland already. It has no claim to additional park land, including the maintenance facility in the southeast corner of the Park. 
  • The Zoo should partner with the Overton Park Conservancy and other park and environmental advocates to grow in a way that benefits, rather than harms, Overton Park. The Zoo leadership has behaved in an adversarial way with organizations and individuals dedicated to caring for, preserving, and enhancing our public parks. It should change its posture so that the Zoo and the Park can both benefit. Welcoming a Conservancy-appointed member of the Conservancy's board to the Zoo board would be a good start. 

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