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Disabled Memphians struggling to access Tom Lee Park while Riverside Drive is closed

Riverside Drive has been closed for months during the pandemic

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's a rare sight to see Riverside Drive with no cars at all. It's been closed to traffic for the past few months to allow for people to get outside and maximize social distancing. Riverside Drive is closed from Georgia to Jefferson to traffic on the weekends. 

However, the lack of accessibility to parking has made it difficult for people with disabilities to access Tom Lee Park. Jerred Price, the president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, said this has been a months-long issue for people with disabilities. 

"There are a few benefits, of course, and things we can enjoy with the street closed, but we have to think about the overall impact of how this is affecting more than just the enjoyment factor," Price said. 

Price said the sign posted at Beale Street and Riverside Drive providing a phone number to call for parking is not enough for an equitable experience for all. 

"We're basically telling our disabled Memphians that you can’t just park and access the park like everybody else," Price said.

Jeremy Ellison, the father of two girls with disabilities who frequently go to the river parks, said it's been difficult to enjoy the park lately. 

"You can’t get to the park because you can’t get to the vehicle accessible," Ellison said. 

He wishes there was better access to parking, so his daughter wouldn't get fatigued from a long walk from their car. 

"My one child she has a disability and it’s hard for her to walk so when she gets there she’s tired," Ellison said. "She’s extremely tired, so she doesn’t get to enjoy it as much."

Price said the solution to the issue is simple. 

"The simple solution to this reopens the public taxpayer paid for street and the taxpayer paid parking lot at Tom Lee and restore equitable access for all Memphians," Price said. 

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