City council affirms Memphis Zoo's control over Greensward

City Council to vote on control of the Greensward
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis City Council voted in favor of Memphis Zoo keeping control of the Greensward at Overton Park.

City council members spent several hours Tuesday talking about the ongoing controversy surrounding the Greensward--a patch of grass in Overton Park. Supporters and critics alike also came out to debate the topic Tuesday afternoon.

Click here to read all our coverage surrounding the Greensward battle.

Overton Park Conservancy, a group created by the city council to oversee operation of Overton Park, started a campaign against the zoo's use of the Greensward for overflow parking.

Tuesday's debate centered on a provision that would reaffirm the zoo's authority to use the Greensward for overflow parking.

City council members said the point of the discussion is to clear up any confusion on who controls Overton Park. The council said the park houses a zoo, a college of art, an outdoor entertainment complex, a museum of art, a golf course, and city buildings--all of which ultimately fall under the council's jurisdiction.

After more debating and public feedback, council members amended the original provision to make sure to outline the area Memphis Zoo could use for overflow parking. The amendments made sure Rainbow Lake and the playground were not part of the Zoo's area of control. Amendments also made it clear that no trees could be removed without council approval.

Click here to read the original resolution council members discussed Tuesday afternoon. That form does not have the amendments mentioned above.

It does still explain that ultimately The Memphis City Council has authority over the entire park.

"The Council does hereby ratify, affirm and approve in all respects the right and authority of the operators and patrons of the City's Zoo to use the portion of the Greensward described, identified and/or shown on Exhibit "B" for parking as and when needed on a priority basis to the exclusion of all other uses and without interference from any other person or entity."

Mayor Jim Strickland released a statement on the ruling:

While I would have preferred for mediation to solve all of the issues at play, the Memphis City Council, which has authority over city-owned property, spoke today on Overton Park. While this resolves the Greensward, we remain committed to the future and what's best for all users of Overton Park, which has other parking and use issues. It remains in the best interest of the community that the Memphis Zoo and Overton Park Conservancy move forward with mediation to come up with plans for Overton Park for the benefit of all of our citizens.

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