In 1978, Evergreen Historic District Association incorporated and drafted its Constitution and By Laws with this specific wording, “To be an advocate for, preserve and protect, Overton Park and the Old Forest, within as a valuable and unique natural setting.” True to the written word, the breadth of what EHDA has done and continues to do in the fight to save the Greensward is extensive. As early as 1989, EHDA had hands-on involvement in the negotiations that led to the Zoo Master Plan which specifically stated there would be no parking on the Greensward. Neither the Zoo nor the City has held up to this agreement.
To date, we’ve been seated at roundtable discussions with the Mayor, City Council, Overton Park Conservancy and the Zoo. In 2014, through our efforts with OPC, City officials promised, in writing, that a resolution to the Greensward parking issue was near. In the final hour, that resolution was withdrawn. Most recently, our legal counsel has filed a motion to intervene in the Chancery Court litigation currently pending between the Zoo and OPC.
In addition, last fall we hosted mayoral and council member debates with Evergreenissues at their heart making sure questions about the Greensward were addressed. We’ve organized peaceful protests and funded environmental studies.
We’ve provided volunteers at Zoo shuttle stops and Park entrances — helping Zoo participants get to free offsite parking. We are continually documenting the Greensward parking both on high and low traffic days. We’ve even been the butt of editorial cartoons!
Council called a backdoor meeting to vote on a Greensward resolution, EHDA sent out an urgent request to all board members and neighbors asking them to attend the Council meeting. Evergreen showed up in number providing historic, personal and often passionate accounts of what Overton Park means to us as a community. While the resolution was voted down, EHDA is poised to continue its efforts both in the lawsuit that is currently pending and organizing the community in opposition to further damage to the Greensward.
To that end, EHDA representatives recently met with other groups trying to preserve the Park, and EHDA has joined an umbrella group which represents all of midtown, including:
- Midtown Action Committee
- Park Friends
- Memphis Heritage
- Midtown Memphis Development Corp.
- Stop Hurting Overton Park Group
- Cooper Young
- Overton Park Conservancy
- East End Neighborhood
- Belleair Woods
- Morningside Place
- Peace and Justice
- Tucker Jefferson
- Central Gardens
EHDA is not giving up! We are hopeful the mediation now underway will be fruitful. Saying this, now is the time to let your voice be heard, and loudly! Keep writing op-eds, sharing information, going to meetings, staying informed, enjoying the Greensward, calling local and national media, peacefully and respectfully protesting, and doing what you personally can to let your officials know you’re not backing down. Email the City Council members (http://www.memphistn.gov/government/citycouncil.aspx), and please let Mayor Strickland, our former District 5 representative, know how you feel.