Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Planning for Overton Park Access

Public Planning Meeting also deals with Accessability
By Tim Wheat

Brooks Museum of Art front entrance at nightMost people came to the Overton Park Planning public meeting Tuesday night at the Brooks Museum of Art concerning parking. The Memphis Center for Independent Living was part of the local focus groups and has suggested that the plan include access and accessible routs to all the Overton Park amenities. The MCIL statement asked that inclusion of people with disabilities be a guiding principle for all renovations, and to remedy existing access issues in the park.

“This is a beautiful thing,” said Tina Sullivan, the executive director of the Overton Park Conservancy who is a leading sponsor of the planning. “It means a lot of people are paying attention to this issue.”

The auditorium holds 250 people and the Brooks staff stood ready with umbrellas to assist people into the building. The Museum staff welcomed vistors and everyone was given a nice color print of the Overton Park map. Ms. Sullivan said that at least 50 people were turned away.  

The capacity crowd at the Brooks Museum of Art hissed as the facilitator showed Memphis Zoo patrons parked on the Overton Park Greensward, but the public meeting was cordial. Steve Auterman spent most of the time Tuesday night explaining that the planning group hired by Overton Park anchor organizations that they are only gathering information in this initial phase. The zoo is not helping to fund the planning process.

Mr. Auterman and Chuck Flink of Alta Planning did most of the presentation to the crowd. They made no judgements and responded to questions written on cards by a select few in the audience. Access was one of the issues they were aware of and even used the example of people who use power wheelchairs as they addressed access around the park.

“This is not a park for all users,” said Steve Auterman of Looney Ricks Kiss design firm; “if you use a wheelchair there are areas you cannot go.”

If you would like to give input please visit the Overton Park website and take the survey. The final three questions will give you an opportunity to make suggestions.

Crowd at the Overton Park public hearing