"Nowhere in the United States, except in the Pacific Northwest, will you find tree growth as luxuriant as in the Western Tennessee and Eastern Arkansas forests, and in the two hundred acres of Overton Park you have a property which, as a heritage to the public for the enjoyment of nature, equals in value the cost of the entire park system to the present time." George Edward Kessler, designer of the Overton Park
One of the joys of Midtown is walking, biking or jogging along the roads and trails of Overton Park. The park is a centerpiece of the whole city. It was originally acquired in 1901 as the 342 acre Lea Wood. It was laid out by the noted landscape designer, George Kessler, who believed that its vistas could enrich the soul. The park is unique in preserving an old-growth forest, which coexists and interweaves with the open green areas of the Greensward and the public golf course.
Kessler also envisioned a string of parks and recreational areas linked by the city's shaded parkways. In earlier days, it was possible to rent horses at the Fair Grounds and ride them along the median paths of East Parkway and onto the bridle paths through the park's Old Forest.
The park also includes some of the major amenities of the city:
The Brooks Museum of Art, strong permanent collection, frequent visiting shows, and pleasant dining at the Brushmark Restaurant. (901) 544-6225
The Memphis Zoo, a major zoo, which currently houses a pair of pandas on loan from China. If they can ever manage to get their parking off the Greensward and stop fencing off parts of the forest, they will be a fine addition to the Park.
The Memphis College of Art, a fine curriculum and impressive student shows, plus a major alumni show each fall.
The Levitt Shell is host to a series of free concerts where the community can gather to enjoy the evening breeze. In past years, the site was the home of the Memphis Open Air Theater (the MOAT) dating back to the depression years. Afterwards the Memphis Symphony provided free concerts on midsummer evenings.
To learn more about the park and get involved with maintenance and protection of this treasure, visit the
The real heart of the Park is its community friendly Greensward and its inviting old-growth forest. These areas are the gathering place for the neighborhood and a haven for nature lovers in the midst of the city.
The Park Friends gather regularly for trash pickup. In 2009, they helped save fish and turtles during the clean up of Rainbow Lake between the Old Forest and the Greensward. The Zoo housed the displaced creatures until they could return to the lake.
Automobiles are barred from the woodland roads, which are an amazingly attractive place for walkers, joggers and bicyclists. The woodland paths beckon lovers of birds and wildflowers.
The woods also provide the most attractive setting in town for 5K races and for the 5 mile Memphis Classic. Running clubs enjoy the wooded lanes, and a running group meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Check the website of the MEMPHIS RUNNERS CLUB for details, schedules and contact information.
Runners gather under the trees for the start of the 2008 Memphis Classic.