Engaging the Natural World with Scout Books

  • Memphis River Parks - Scout Books
  • Memphis River Parks - Scout Books
  • Memphis River Parks - Scout Books
  • Memphis River Parks - Scout Books

Come to the river! Memphis River Parks made this river garden field guide for identifying local flora along the six miles of parks in Memphis, Tennessee. We talked with Ruby Zielinski of the Memphis River Parks Partnership to see how they’re using Scout Books to engage their visitors.

Can you tell us a bit about Memphis River Parks?
The Memphis River Parks Partnership is a nonprofit that works with and for the people of Memphis to trigger the transformative power of the river. We manage, maintain and steward five park districts all along the banks of the Mississippi. In November, we opened two significant projects: River Garden and River Line. River Garden is a charming park that includes human-size bird nests, a treehouse and native meadow plantings. The River Line is a bike/ped trail that connects all of the river parks together for the first time. Right now, we’re working to raise funds and finalize design on a spectacular new Tom Lee Park, the centerpiece of our riverfront and host to major civic moments and festivals.

What is the guide? Why did you decide to make it a Scout Book?
River Garden has quickly become a favorite among downtown attractions for its incredible river views, quaint cafe, and welcoming rangers. It is the newest addition to our parks and the first of its kind in Memphis. The River Garden Field Guide was designed to highlight the wonderful native plantings and critters in the park for visitors to explore and learn more about.

The book also allows for intentional interactions with our park rangers. The rangers are equipped with the knowledge of all plants in the garden. They are trained to be inviting and open to questions and even giving tours to curious observers. Scout Books offered the perfect, pocket-sized book for visitors to explore the garden. We wanted to create something people would want to keep and share with friends and family. Scout was the best way to do that. We really love the art depicting the different flowers, grasses, trees, and critters in the area.

Can you tell us about the artist and design of the books?
The book is a collaboration between the Partnership’s in-house designer, Ruby Zielinski, and illustrator, qwynto. It is reminiscent of field guides you might find in a National Parks 20 or 30 years ago, but with a contemporary spin. The illustrations are done in a comic book style to attract kids and adults alike. Bold strokes and whimsical touches give the plants and animals a playful attitude.

Throughout the book, there are places for interaction. Just like in a traditional field guide, there spaces that leave room for notes, sketches, and observations. Every person that is given a field guide is encouraged to ask our park rangers about the plants to learn more.

What was it like pulling all this information together for a tiny field guide? Were there any challenges in putting it into print?
We had a lot of help figuring out which plants and animals to feature. The contents of the Field Guide only scratch the surface of what is in the garden. The designers of the park, Groundswell Design Group, outlined a list of favorite plants and we narrowed them down to the ones in the book. Between Groundswell’s thorough information and several online sources, we were able to build a guide that gives enough information to recognize the plants, but leaves out certain details for the visitor to find.

The only challenge was narrowing down the plants and animals. There are so many neat elements to the park, we may need another Field Guide down the road. Spring is around the corner!

Do you have any favorite seasonal happenings coming up in the next few months?
We are very excited about the spring. Since we opened the park in November, we haven’t had the opportunity to experience the park in full bloom. It is going to be quite colorful, I suspect.

Programming-wise, we have several exciting happenings on the way. Our Firepit Fridays have been a big hit since we opened. We are planning to host a Spring Market in conjunction with a Friday in March or April. We also have the Lichterman Nature Center on deck to begin nature-based education programming for kids. You may see some active opportunities as well. We have been talking with trainers to figure out how to include fitness classes once the weather gets better. Stay tuned for more on social media!

Huge thanks to Ruby Zielinski for speaking with us! We’re so happy to see Scout Books being used to get people engaged outside. You can find out more about Memphis River Parks via their website. See you at the river!