EUGENESERGEEV | DREAMSTIME
Contrary to popular opinion, the zoo parking problem is not so difficult to solve. There are lots of solutions that would, as the signs say, SAVE THE GREENSWARD. Here are seven of them.
Shrink the golf course.
Nobody who’s any good plays on a nine-hole public course with crummy greens, so what’s one less hole? A nine-hole course is an abbreviation of the standard 18 holes anyway. The number of golfers per acre of land is tiny compared to the thousands of park users who picnic, stroll, play Ultimate Frisbee, or let their dogs run loose. As an added benefit, these duffers would instantly improve their scores by seven or eight strokes per round. The obvious candidate for repurposing as Greens-ward Number Two is Hole Number One next to the clubhouse, which would make a nice Starbucks.
Build the Garage.
Nothing says harmony with nature like a four-story parking garage in a forest. The trick would be to keep it far enough away from free parking on city streets so that zoo patrons would actually use it. That and finding an alternate use on the 250 or so days when the garage would not be needed. An architecturally sensitive camouflage design and a few hundred parking spaces shouldn’t cost much more than $15 million, which added to the city capital improvements budget, would add only a penny or so to the Memphis property tax rate. Who could object?
Park on our Streets.
There are lovely streets east of McLean within easy walking distance of the zoo entrance, and several more in the tidy Evergreen Historic District neighborhood west of McLean. Throw Rhodes College into the mix and get them to share their gated parking lot on North Parkway on crowded weekends. What better way to show off our city’s assets to visitors? The residents wouldn’t mind a little congestion and litter 65 days a year if it means saving the Greensward. I know I wouldn’t, and I live in Evergreen, although far enough from the zoo that nobody would park in front of my house.
No Free Tuesday.
In a misplaced gesture of compassion and generosity, the zoo has been letting people in free on Tuesday afternoons some weeks for several years. This has resulted in dreadful traffic jams on North Parkway and other streets, mountains of dirty diapers and litter in neighbors’ yards, and parking a few hundred cars on the greensward. If the freeloaders can’t find $15 for admission, let them stay home. Or perhaps offer just one or two free days a year, which would make them even more special! And parking problem solved, at least on Full-Fare Tuesdays.
Dogs Rule, Donors Don't.
The zoo board of directors includes several people who are on it for no other reason than that they gave a few million dollars to build special exhibits or played a part in bringing special attractions like the pandas to Memphis. This is very undemocratic. And the darn pandas, wolves, elk, grizzly bears, apes, and goofy looking birds have brought so many people to the zoo that we now have — you guessed it — a parking problem. Expanding the board by adding members chosen in a lottery would bring the fancy-pants crowd down a peg.
Move the Zoo.
There are hundreds if not thousands of vacant acres of land at the old fairgrounds and at Shelby Farms with abundant room for expansion and parking. The next move is so obvious it is a wonder it has not already been done. Simply load up the animals, box up the exhibits, put up some fences and moats and food trucks at the new site, and move the zoo part and parcel to one of those places. Then just ear down what’s left of the old one, plant some trees and grass seed in Overton Park, and you’d quadruple the size of the Greensward.
Move the Maintenance.
This would be a less radical alternative to all the above. The southeastern corner of Overton Park is used by the city vehicle maintenance department. The city has plans to move this to another site on Lamar Avenue, opening up the possibility of a new parking lot or a garage. The problem is that people would have to walk through the Old Forest with walkers and small children in tow or take a tram with all of its nasty pollution and interference with bicycles, birdwatchers, and runners to get to the zoo. C’mon Granny, speed up!
See what I mean? Seven easy solutions. Controversial, perhaps, but nobody’s perfect.