Overton Park Fight on PBS

Last night PBS ran “10 Parks That Changed America,” featuring the battle to keep Overton Park from being destroyed.

The filmmakers highlighted Overton Park because citizens stopped the government from bulldozing it to put I-40 through Midtown. I believe it was the first environmental case of this nature the Supreme Court decided and it set a precedent.

Overton Park was No. 8 in the list of parks, which was done chronologically. Now it seems like a no brainer to preserve the park, but here we find ourselves having to do it once again – this time the threat comes from the Zoo and the government.

Although I lived in East Memphis at the time and was too young to be aware of the goings-on, I was effected. At 7 my parents enrolled me in then Southwestern at Memphis’ music school. I first took lessons with a teacher’s assistant, Doris Sharp, in the carriage house back behind the Galloway House in the Overton Park area. (Poor Ms. D. Sharp must have endured hearing her name laughed about because of its musical connotations from louts for years.) Then I was moved to the big house to the large drawing room in the front on the east side. It was an impressive house, although the heating was so outdated my teacher often stood on the floor vents in the winter with her coat on to warm up.

Then a few years later, because of the plan to bulldoze and put the interstate through, we had to move to classrooms directly to the west of now Rhodes college. In the end, it was all for nothing. Thankfully.

As the show relates, middle aged housewives came to the rescue of the park. One in particular, Sarah Hines, was highlighted. The producers talked to her daughter about her mother’s efforts. The daughter mentioned that her mother was a Republican and a conservative in the true sense of the word – she wanted to conserve what we have.

I was surprised that PBS let that fact cone out. No other mention of politics happened in the show in all the parks highlighted. Someone in the liberal universe of public television let that slip by.

Mrs. Hines’ daughter added that her mother was always sure the outcome would be just. In those days, people had faith in our system. Who would today? Government always protects government. They never are held accountable, nor do they lose.

The producers really didn’t do justice to Overton Park when it comes to looks. They never gave a big panorama view that showed how attractive it is.

And they didn’t mention the current greensward issue. Perhaps it occurred after the filming or perhaps they didn’t want to make it controversial.

Unfortunately, though, the fight continues. Thank God for people likes Mrs. Hines and the current Overton Park Conservancy board. We need them.

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