Remarking that “protests will probably continue for a while,” Overton Park Conservancy executive director Tina Sullivan is optimistic that the fight over the greensward will have a happy ending.
At the Midtown Republican Club meeting last night, Ms. Sullivan said, “we understand that the Zoo needs parking. We will work with them. A solution is achievable.” In fact, she had just come from the Commercial Appeal where she outlined the three phases to achieve them, which is in this morning’s newspaper.
Basically, Phase 1 involves better communication via websites and apps to help direct visitors to parking spaces. In addition, Sullivan said new areas are being found for parking and access, including more street parking and reconfiguring of current spaces.
Phase 2 “involves consensus. Recognizing that keeping the zoo’s existing parking lot status quo is not an option. We need to assess where we are.”
For Phase 3, Sullivan sees “a growing idea that there is a philanthropic zoo fund raising possibility for a garage.”
Sullivan points to all the Overton Park Conservancy has done as an indicator of future possibilities. “It has raised $6 million in the past four years. Since 2012, we have built a dog park, added and improved functioning restrooms, renovated Rainbow Lake’s playground – which draws half a million adults and kids from all over the city – and managed the Old Forest.
“On Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. in the Old Pavilion, we have a farmers market of 40 vendors. They have doubled their business in the last month. On June 4th we will have a day of merry making. Last year 4200 attended and we are budgeting for 5-6,000 this year. We will have a tethered hot air balloon and a beer garden.”
Aside from events, Sullivan sees the Conservancy as doing things government can’t do. “We can unlock assets the city couldn’t such as TDOT funds for a new Poplar/Cooper access way. In January 2012 the Conservancy took on things the city budget didn’t cover. Overton Park is 342 acres and we partner with five other organizations to manage 184 acres.
“Some of them are parts of the old forest and protected. We’ve removed privet, kudzu and English ivy. We’ve partnered with Rhodes. They have a forester who teaches students about the different plants there. Together we launched an app that helps you identify flowers – a unique concept.”
For more information, go to overtonpark.org.