Giving Away Our Parks - And Response (2)

Friday, September 7, 2018
To my knowledge, the city decided to give Coolidge Park to the Moon River festival this weekend without any public input or discussion.
While it is only a two-day festival, in fact, the park has effectively been closed to the public since Tuesday as the organizers set up their perimeter fence and began denying the public access.
Coolidge Park is the people's park and the city should not have sold us out without first inviting public comment.
Now, today comes word that although the Walnut Street Bridge will remain open, "You will not be able to set up chairs or linger in place during the festival."
That is an insult and an outrage to local citizens and taxpayers, and dare I say, a bridge too far. I would like to know how the city intends to enforce this provision and I intend to defy it in an act of civil disobedience to test its legality.

John C. Reis

* * *

The man who is complaining about the festival did not seem to make himself clear. Did he want it to be free, did he feel his voice needed to be heard, is the timing of the festival interrupting an activity he normally pursues at the park, what is it? 
The Hopkins Family is excited that the Festival moved here from Memphis. Someone should take a pole in that great city. I am sure many, many Memphians had wished it had stayed there, so it would be easier for them to attend. Keep in mind, 61% of tickets sold for this event went to out of towners.
I would like to say "Thank You" to Drew Holcomb, his band The Neighbors, and to everyone involved in putting the festival together. 

Billy Hopkins 


* * *

Mr. Reis,

As someone who lives near Coolidge Park and attended the Moon River Festival, I’ll admit I had the same reaction to the directive against “lingering” on the bridge. (However, I do agree with the directive about chairs, which were not allowed at the festival, either. They really lend themselves to selfish behavior.) Fortunately the city thought better of it, because people were lined up along the bridge railing throughout.

Regarding your other complaint, the city rents out Coolidge Park all the time—for fundraising events, Frisbee dog competitions, giant Easter egg hunts, what have you—although the logistics of a festival are obviously more difficult and take more time to arrange. Our public park on the south side of the river is shut down to an equivalent degree for nearly two weeks each June, for Riverbend. Both festivals bring revenue to the city, so I’m not sure I understand the difference.

However, here’s a difference I did notice. At Moon River I did not see obnoxious drunks, smoking, trash all over the ground, fighting and gratuitous displays of body parts. (I’m referencing both sexes with that last comment. I’ve seen things at Riverbend I can’t unsee.) I did see a crowd of happy people who respected the park and each other and truly appreciated the musical artists, who seemed to appreciate them in return. There was more traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) on my street, but certainly not to a bothersome degree, and again, everyone was courteous.

I am very much hoping that as Riverbend moves well into its fourth decade, it will consider taking a few tips from the Moon River playbook, beginning with this: find musical artists who love to engage with their audience, and then let them do it. That means restricting VIP seating to the pier or other out-of-the-way places, banning chairs and plastic fencing on the lawn north of Riverside Drive, and abandoning the barge altogether. They don’t have to hire super-expensive acts to reap the benefits of this strategy, and they’ll attract more young people, which—judging from Moon River—would be a wonderful thing.

Allison Gorman

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