MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It's finally over. After months of debates, the controversy over a patch of grass in Overton Park has come to an end.
Memphis City Council voted unanimously in favor of a plan set forth by Mayor Jim Strickland that both Memphis Zoo and Overton Park Conservancy agreed upon.
"This is a monumental day. We're very pleased to announce this consensus plan, and we're pleased that the council's supportive of it," Overton Park Conservancy president Tina Sullivan said. "Now the hard work begins and we start fundraising and the engineering and get this plan implemented."
"Today is a day of compromise. We got 415 parking spaces for Memphis Zoo parking, which is a great thing. We also get to enjoy Overton Park, which is the biggest thing, you know, that we could hope for," Memphis Zoo spokesperson Laura Doty said.
Both groups have been fighting over a space that's become known as the Greensward. It's an area of grass usually used by park patrons, but sometimes used by the zoo for overflow parking.
Memphis Zoo said City Council gave the zoo permission to use the park for overflow parking many years ago. Overton Park Conservancy said the space should belong to the park and not be used as a parking lot.
The agreed upon plan creates 415 new parking spaces in the zoo's existing parking lots; it also formalizes plans for 200 spaces on North Parkway. It sets up a permanent separation between Overton Park and the zoo parking lots. It also calls for converting the current General Services area to a recreational green space with additional parking.
The process of reconfiguring the parking lot could take two or three years. During that time, zoo patrons will still be allowed to park on the Greensward.
Memphis Zoo and Overton Park Conservancy are splitting the bill to cover the cost of this plan. No taxpayer money will be used to implement the plan.