Citizens group argues against zoo expansion in Overton Park - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Citizens group argues against zoo expansion in Overton Park

Plans to expand the Memphis Zoo came under fire Tuesday at Memphis City Hall.

Members of the group 'Citizens to Preserve Overton Park' used visual aids of past zoo expansions at a Memphis City Council committee meeting Tuesday morning to show how park space has been eliminated.

Group members said the city gave 17 acres of land to the zoo to maintain and control many years ago.  The land, they said, is already fenced off from the public.

Council members said they did not want to slow the zoo's expansion.

"I'm pound of what the zoo has done," council member Barbara Swearingen-Ware said.  "(I) understand your passion, but it's called progress."

"We need to take into consideration, too, that we're getting a sixteen million dollar private investment, and we're not spending any city funds," council member Reid Hedgepeth added.

In the face of that expansion, group members countered, the zoo should open up currently fenced off areas.

"We feel there's no reason for that forest to be fenced off from the public," group member Naomi Vanto said, noting a family of four must pay nearly $50 to enter the zoo.

Memphis Zoo officials said the forest will be turned into a walking trail to allow people to enjoy the natural plant and animal wildlife in Overton Park.

Every Memphis Zoo project receives public input and is cleared by the city, officials added.

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