Former Memphis mayor weighs in on Tom Lee Park improvements controversy months away from election day

Park proposal controversy

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Clashing views on the future of Tom Lee Park continue after former Memphis mayor and now mayoral candidate Willie Herenton vocalized his views on the re-do.

The $60 million transformation of the riverfront park has drawn controversy leading to mediation.

Herenton says not if, but when, he’s elected mayor and the park remodel proposal goes through his first action as mayor will be to rescind the plan.

Behind closed doors for months, Memphis in May and Memphis River Parks Partnership have worked to find middle ground and an agreement on the proposed $60 million park transformation.

The proposal was met with immediate worry from the festival’s organizers. Their biggest fear is that the new park wouldn’t fully accommodate the music festival and barbecue contest. Though MRPP assured them it could still work.

“Tom Lee Park is for the people. Make no mistake about this. This park does not belong to an elitist establishment of Memphis This park belongs to the people,” said Herenton.

Less than three months before election day in Memphis, former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton voiced his concerns over the impact of park changes.

“When I am elected mayor”, said Herenton, “I will immediately rescind this plan so it will never see the light of day."

It was under Herenton’s administration that the Riverfront Development Cooperation and Beale Street Landing were created. Herenton says during his time in office one of his goals was to promote park access and he says this plan takes it away.

“I have been around a long time. I have seen a lot of plans but this one that’s on the drawing board now for Tom Lee Park disturbs me greatly,” said Herenton.

A spokesperson for MRPP said,

“I stand with Memphis in May. We are going to keep them in this park, but we are also to improve the park so it is better utilized the other 11 months of the year,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

A spokesperson for Tami Sawyer’s campaign told us she would not be weighing in on the topic. As for the mediation, a source tells WMC Action News 5 a resolution could be made before the election.

Memphis in May’s vice president of marketing released a statement saying,

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