It’s time for the results of our final Speak Up 2013 question, about an area of the park we plan on giving some attention to over the next several years.
The top answer for this question was that people weren’t sure what could be done because they weren’t familiar with this part of the park. Multiple respondents expressed that they knew about the area, but had never made the connection that it was part of Overton Park. Another answer that didn’t crack the top 10, but which seems like part of the solution to this issue, was that the connection between the East Parkway side and the rest of the park should be strengthened. The Old Forest that sits between the two sides should be a welcoming throughway, not a barrier.
At the Conservancy, we know East Parkway as a lively spot on the weekends, when it hosts numerous family reunions, church groups, company picnics, fundraising races, and birthday parties. On weekday mornings it’s a gathering place for birdwatchers, because the sun hits the eastern edge of the Old Forest and makes wildlife easier to spot. We’re hopeful that the new bicycle and pedestrian plaza and trail connection will encourage greater access and use of the area as well.
The area’s challenges include its proximity to a very busy street and a lack of available parking for large gatherings. The shade that makes it such a pleasant place to sit and enjoy nature also reduces the amount of available landscaping options and would make it difficult to install something like a splash park. (Direct sun is such a crucial element of a splash park, both to make the water temperature comfortable and to prevent the growth of mildew.)
We received many good suggestions about improving East Parkway, with the overriding theme that it’s a well-functioning space that needs some sprucing up.
“I think the new gateway with the bike lanes will be a big improvement. There’s always large groups grilling out or picnicking. Keep that and make it functional for groups. A couple of covered pavilions, nice stone grills/fireplaces, etc.”
“Add interesting multi-age features. Expand walking/jogging path, and tie it into old forest jogging trail. Program an enticing fairly big public event over there.”
“Excited about the new courtyard and bicycle entrance. Would love to see the theme throughout that side of the park extend deeper into the playground and picnic areas. Perhaps sculpture art from various local artists featuring historic bicycles can be featured around a bike path. Folks can come and tour the art on their bikes. Another thought is to add a cool feature like a big hill with a stone castle structure on top to spark the storybook imagination of children. Kids could roll down the grassy hill and castle could also double as a concert location. Add small hills with thicker vegetation to block view access and noise of East Parkway. This would force folks to use proper crosswalks, which would also improve safety.”
“I think azaleas might reduce noise from the cars and some dogwoods would provide an understory to the oaks and additional color. Landscaping the area should enable more picnic tables to be added and more privacy at the same time.”
“A way to stop people from going over the curb with their car. Cameras with sound in and around the pavilion to monitor the activities and to help whoever monitors them at dusk to send the police out to close the area down. Additional parking for the pavilion area to help when there is a race/run going on.”
“I think the playground area should be enhanced like the Rainbow playground. I think the picnic area could have a circular area with permanent grill stationed to where groups can utilize. I have seen this in many resort hotels. It encourages use and would help large groups with the grilling. I think if we had a designated area marked off for old fashioned outdoor games such as relays, volleyball, dodge ball, Frisbee and other games, it would draw big crowds over to that side of the park. Most groups are looking for assistance with games to occupy the group’s time.”
“This is the side of the park I’m most familiar with; I like that it’s quiet and dedicated to nature. Perhaps a nature center or forest walk for the blind/physically impaired.”
“I would like to see a new ‘anchor’ on the east side that would draw a different group of locals and add to the experience of tourists. The possible Eggleston Museum could be a good one. Oh, and move out the Memphis General Services facility (leave the Fire Dept.).”*
* Note: The City has already begun the process of removing its equipment from the General Services Area.
“I would like to see adult fitness zones lining the walkways or next to the current playground. Low-impact adult fitness zones, with nearby spaces for children, have been shown to have a positive impact on the health of low-income individuals, seniors, disabled vets and other who either can not afford, or do not feel comfortable in an indoor gym.”
“Love the families that area brings – and the diversity. Would love to see that area flow more smoothly into park – encourage traffic between that area and big area/park.”
“Maybe a visitor’s center should go here. People coming off of Sam Cooper could stop in to get an idea of the Park, its history and attractions as well as to other nature, art and historical museums in Memphis. The presence of a center might make that area seem less isolated and improve security.”
“More picnic tables, maybe some wooden swings for people to sit on, more seating since it is mostly used for reunions, events, etc.”
“The fire department is near there. What about a fire-fighter themed playground and picnic area? Climbing a fire-pole or ropes, kid-friendly fire trucks, and areas for lessons on fire safety (maybe near grills).”