Inaugural Project Begins With 113-Acre Eastern Glades
At nearly 1,500 acres, Memorial Park is Houston’s largest urban-center park and is almost double the size of New York’s Central Park. On April 1, 2015, the Houston City Council unanimously approved the long range Master Plan for Memorial Park. The plan, which provides a comprehensive vision to create a healthy balance between conservation and recreation, will enhance, preserve and protect Memorial Park for years to come. A collaborative partnership between the Memorial Park Conservancy (MPC), the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) and the Uptown TIRZ led the planning process with input from stakeholder groups and the general public. Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects was hired to lead the design effort.
Implementation of the Memorial Park Master Plan will begin with the Eastern Glades. The 113-acre area located north of Memorial Drive between Memorial Park Golf Course and Crestwood subdivision will create a passive recreation area surrounded by restored savannah and pine-hardwood forest.
According to Thomas L. Woltz, owner of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBWLA), the firm that is leading the design of the park’s Master Plan, the inspiration for the Eastern Glades came from an unrealized portion of the original Hare & Hare master plan, the park’s first master plan drafted in the 1920s. Incorporating the gently curving paths and simple geometries of that era, Woltz planned the Eastern Glades, framing a public space within the “urban wilds” of the park.
The design draws upon the park’s own history, re-establishing a pedestrian entry at one of the original entrances to Camp Logan, the World War 1 training facility which occupied the site nearly 100 years ago before the park was created.
The Eastern Glades is envisioned as two large green spaces where existing trees are preserved to create a shady and quiet space for picnicking and other passive uses. Wide promenades around these spaces allow for leisure walking. To the west of the garden spaces, the plan proposes a large pond that will be a visual amenity, providing views to water and wetlands. These areas will adapt the ecological restoration recommendations from the Master Plan to increase habitat quality and diversity – an important part of the project’s plan to balance conservation with recreation opportunities.
“The Eastern Glades will provide an amenity that we do not have right now,” says Shellye Arnold, Chief Executive Officer of the Memorial Park Conservancy, “a place to put down a blanket and read a book, relax on a park bench, or go for a leisurely walk and just enjoy being outdoors.”
Currently, the 113-acre area is bisected by the existing East Memorial Loop Drive. “Shifting the existing road to the east will be the essential first step towards realizing the project,” says Sarah Newbery, Project Director for Memorial Park with the Uptown TIRZ, adding that “the realignment of the road will provide park users with what amounts to 30 new acres of safely accessible parkland.” Realignment of East Memorial Loop Road will also reconnect the surrounding 83 acres that are currently divided, providing contiguous habitat areas.
“As we implement the various aspects of Memorial’s Master Plan, we remain committed to stewarding one of Houston’s most popular parks,” said Joe Turner, Director of Houston Parks and Recreation Department. “The increase in habitat and diversification of native species will build a stronger park able to better withstand
natural occurring incidents like droughts while providing facilities for park users to enjoy.”
Infrastructure improvements will be another important aspect of the project, and include storm water management systems to improve drainage and promote responsible resource management. The creation of a new pond and adjacent wetland will enable the capture and reuse of storm water for irrigation as well as provide new habitat for wildlife and general beautification for park user enjoyment.
“A master plan is a detailed road map, not a construction document,” explains Woltz. “It assures comprehensive coordination of infrastructure, amenities and ecology but does not include engineering and construction details that can be built from. A master plan facilitates fundraising and sequencing of projects and lays well-considered foundations for the in-depth design phases that follow.”
The total Eastern Glades project cost is currently estimated at $25 million with a $5 million commitment from Uptown TIRZ. A groundbreaking ceremony is currently being planned for this fall, and it is estimated the project will take three years to complete.
Additionally, MPC continues to supplement park staff through HPARD to improve the day-to-day experience for park visitors with trash pick-up, garden maintenance and facility cleaning. For more information, visit memorialparkconservancy.org.
Rendering courtesy of Nelson Byrd Waltz Landscape Architects
Category: Cy-Fair People & Places