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Residents accuse the City of Memphis of helping the Memphis Zoo violate city ordinance

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The zoo has a verbal agreement with the City of Memphis to use the Greensward for overflow parking. The zoo has a verbal agreement with the City of Memphis to use the Greensward for overflow parking.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - Some residents are accusing the City of Memphis of helping the Memphis Zoo violate a city ordinance by allowing overflow zoo parking on a green space in a public park.

Those residents say people who have tried to block zoo patrons from parking on the Overton Park Greensward were threatened with arrest. Now, the city and zoo are toiling to find a solution.

Jessica Buttermore has launched an online "Get Off Our Lawn" campaign against the Memphis Zoo. The group also meets weekly on the Overton Park Greensward.

"We are just trying to encourage them to find a solution," said Buttermore.

The zoo has a verbal agreement with the City of Memphis to use the Greensward for overflow parking.

"There's actually a city ordinance that prohibits parking on the grass in public parks, so there is actually a law being broken," added Buttermore.

Buttermore says noise, dust, fumes, and destruction have turned a place where people are meant to play into a chaotic private parking lot.

"They charge them for parking so they're actually making a profit," said Buttermore.

The zoo is caught between a rock and a green space.

"We don't want to be there either, but it's the most logical solution for us right now," said Abbey Dane with the Memphis Zoo. "More than anything, we just want everyone to know we are vigilantly working with the city and the Overton Park Conservancy to resolve this problem."

The City of Memphis says three solutions are on the table. They plan to launch a free shuttle service from the new Overton Square parking garage to the zoo for five consecutive weekends. Free parking will be made available at 281 E. Parkway, but visitors would have to walk through a wooded area and enter the zoo's Teton Trek entrance. A permanent solution: erect a four-level, 400-space parking garage on the zoo's property.

"The main solution has been brought up many times is the possibility of a parking garage and of course that would take time and a lot of money," added Dane.

The city says it will cost $5 million, the zoo says $12 million.

The mayor's office issued the following statement:

On behalf of Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. and Administration Officials:

My administration is committed to working with the Memphis Zoo, Overton Park Conservancy and other interested parties to find and implement a permanent parking solution that will eliminate the need for overflow parking on the Overton Park Greensward by the end of 2014.

The City agrees that parking on the Greensward property is not the highest and best use of the space and while the City is not in a position to participate financially, we will do whatever we can to support the efforts of the Zoo and OPC in their quest for short- and long-term solutions.

Some of the options being explored that the City supports are:

- A short-term, trial Overton Park Shuttle Service from the Overton Square Parking Garage to the Zoo on Saturday and Sunday for five (5) consecutive weekends. The shuttle ride would be FREE to patrons and funded by the Zoo and the OPC. Specific details about pick-up, drop-off locations and schedule will be made public and promoted by the City as soon as the plan is finalized.

The Greensward space will not be used for overflow parking during the five-week shuttle trial period.

-FREE, temporary parking at the City's 281 E. Parkway site. Patrons could park and walk through the wooded area into the Zoo's Teton Trek entrance. As soon as the site has been prepared and plans for staffing are in place we will let the public know of the availability of FREE, temporary parking at 281 E. Parkway.

- A four-level, 400-sapce, $5 million parking garage is being considered as a permanent solution. While the city is not in a position to fund this project, we will facilitate the review and development of the project.

The City appreciates the concern of all parties involved in finding a solution that supports the continued growth of our world-class Zoo and preserves our precious green space. Together we will achieve a successful resolution to our parking challenges.

 

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