CA: Overton conservancy nears $1 million goal to end greensward parking
Banking on a fundraising campaign that’s gone national, the Overton Park Conservancy will meet next week’s deadline to secure $1 million toward planned parking improvements at the Memphis Zoo, the director of the non-profit group says.
The OPC, which manages much of the 342-acre Midtown park under a contract with the city, had raised more than $841,000 by late last week, figures provided by the group show. The donations came not only from across the Memphis area, but from 28 states plus the District of Columbia.
The money will go toward a project intended to end the zoo’s use of the Overton Park greensward, the 12-acre lawn near the center of the park, for overflow parking during peak attendance days. The practice has driven a long-running controversy, with opponents saying it harms the park and zoo officials contending it’s necessary to serve the top tourist attraction in the Memphis area.
The parking improvements include revamping the existing lots at the zoo and adding spaces on the northern, least-used edge of the greensward. The project, slated for completion in 2019, is expected to cost $3 million, an amount to be split by the conservancy and the Memphis Zoological Society.
Responding to zoo officials’ concerns about the conservancy’s commitment and ability to raise money for the project, City Council in April set a June 11 deadline for the group to secure $1 million of its share…
The OPC’s fundraising has elicited broad support, Sullivan said. About 35 percent of the total contributed so far came from donors who had never given to the conservancy before. Donations came in sums small and large, including a $250,000 gift announced by the conservancy in mid-May. The group also received donations from members of the zoo’s board.
Conservancy officials hope to raise the remaining funds this coming week. Three fundraising events are slated between Tuesday and Saturday.
Once the OPC has secured the money, the council could agree to accept funds from it and the zoo. The city then likely would approve a contract with Powers Hill Design, which has been selected to design the project. Construction would occur during the off-season for the zoo.
Representatives of both the zoo and conservancy voiced optimism that the greensward parking controversy will be brought to a conclusion. “We’re optimistic that we’re headed toward a reasonable solution with the conservancy,” McDevitt said.