Sometimes the best thing you can do is to admit that an idea, although well-intended, just doesn’t work. One of those ideas is the observation platform built at the tip of Ashburn-Coppock Park at the current southern terminus of the Bluffwalk.
It probably seemed a good idea at the time. After all, the park offered one of the most dramatic views of the Mississippi River in all of downtown Memphis. Its northward vistas were the stuff of postcards – looking northward at the downtown skyline; the beautiful flowers and landscaped median created by the Riverfront Development Corporation; Mud Island; the “new” bridge and The Pyramid.
There was never a time when it wasn’t one of the highlights that downtown Memphis had to offer. With the sun easing stealthily over the horizon and flooding the sky with unexpected streaks of incredible color, the park offered convincing proof that the most spectacular attraction in Memphis is indeed the nightly, free light show over our riverfront.
Sitting on the green grass at the tip of Ashburn-Coppock Park was the best place to see it all. Apparently, it was about then that an engineer thought about what a gorgeous vista it was and decided to add something of concrete and stone.
So, today, rather than the serene green vantagepoint, there is the hulking, gray viewing platform which not only robbed the park of its most distinctive feature – the tranquil grassy knoll – but also obliterated the most dramatic views that the park had to offer in the first place.
Recently, visits to the park at lunch for an hour, two afternoon walks and one walk in mid-morning never found one person who walked onto the observation platform to the enjoy the view. It just seems counterintuitive to mount the manmade protuberance and walk into the concrete cocoon to enjoy Memphis’ most magnificent natural view.
To add to the disappointment, the trees on the south side of the park next to the river and to the north between the park and downtown have grown so high and thick it’s now difficult to get a clear view of the river and downtown anywhere in the park.
Here’s hoping that soon, the RDC – which has done such a good job of beautifying the front door to Memphis – will beautify it once again by ripping out the observation point.
Old-timers remember its concrete forerunner on the northern tip of Mud Island. Its style was early Eva Braun, and it took 20 years before it was demolished and carried away. The style of the Ashburn-Coppock Park observation deck is much more thoughtful and more appealing, but in the end, it needs to meet the same fate.
The conclusion for the observation deck on the north end of the riverfront was that the best way to spotlight the nature’s charms is to leave it alone. The same is true for the green oasis on the south end of the riverfront.
There are simply times when nature doesn’t need our help to enhance it. Ashburn-Coppock Park is one of those times.