MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Memphis River Parks Partnership, the group proposing a $70 million renovation of Tom Lee Park, faces questions about its ability to maintain the parks it currently operates.
MRPP has five miles of riverfront property to take care of, Memphis’ most prime real estate, enjoyed by Memphians and tourists alike.
"A splash pad would feel amazing right now," said Michelle Camillo, visiting the Bluff City with her family from St. Louis.
But the splash pad on Beale Street Landing wasn't working when the Camillos ventured down to the Mississippi River attraction. The weather that day was blistering, the heat index 111 degrees.
"It would help cool us down," said Camillo, "and stay out here longer to enjoy the riverfront."
The responsibility for maintaining the splash pad, along with everything else at Beale Street Landing, rests with MRPP.
A spokesperson told WMC Action News 5 the control panel for the water feature is finally accessible after the Mississippi River dropped below flood stage. Large patches of the pad’s soft surface are also missing and need to be replaced.
"We've got crews in there working on it," said George Abbott, Director of External Affairs for MRPP. "We expect to have it back up an running this weekend and we look forward to having people using it."
MRPP is also in charge of keeping Greenbelt Park on Mud Island in tip top shape. Jason Rosselot, a frustrated Harbor Town homeowner, sent WMC Action News 5 photos of tall weeds, overgrown grass and untrimmed trees blocking visibility on the walking trail next to the river.
"The weeds were two feet tall," said Rosselot, "It's embarrassing MRPP let it get out of hand. That's where people go to take pics of the bridge and see the river. How are they (MRPP) going to take care of Tom Lee Park?"
Lawn crews showed up at Greenbelt Park on Thursday, July 18 after Rosselot complained to someone in Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s office. City hall contacted MRPP and the group quickly notified its contracted lawn workers. The job, not so well done, halfway finished in spots with grass clippings left everywhere.
This issues at Beale Street Landing and Greenbelt Park follow a problem at Mud Island Park last month when the water in the mock Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico pool turned a putrid green, stagnating in the warm Memphis weather. MRPP crews emptied the pool and put fresh water in after photos of the nasty water were posted on social media.
WMC Action News 5 asked MRPP’s Abbott how they can reassure Memphis taxpayers the group will be able to care for a $70 million dollar park with multiple features, including two new structures, if the current maintenance needs of the existing parks are already difficult.
"A lot of the new Tom Lee Park is natural," said Abbott, "plantings that require less maintenance than a concrete structure. Our maintenance team is a part of the design discussion about the park."
Abbott says lawn crews had equipment problems last month and perhaps the difficulty in finishing the job at Greenbelt Park was a result of that. MRPP's operations team, he said, will look into it.
"You know," he said, "there are going to be issues and we address them as soon as we are made aware of them. We're committed to providing a great experience for everyone all along the riverfront. And we appreciate getting notified when people see issues so we can address them quickly."
Mediation between MRPP and Memphis in May is ongoing. The two sides are trying to come up with a Tom Lee Park design that will accommodate MIM's Beale Street Music Festival and World Championship BBQ Contest. The final plan will need approval from the Memphis division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since the park was built by the Corps to stabilize the bluff and help with navigation along this stretch of the Mississippi River.
If you see something that needs to be fixed at a riverfront park, you can email MRPP at firstname.lastname@example.org.