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Green Living 2012
Dealing with the drought

Bringing Memorial Park back: Plan to restore Houston's iconic canopy will take years

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Ron Morgan, president of Houston Area Road Runners Association, presented the Memorial Park Conservancy with a $25,000 check.  Photo by Whitney Radley
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Houston's parks are in need of a lot of love after the devastating summer of 2011, when the drought and high temperatures robbed the canopy of thousands of trees. 

Many of the dead trees have been cleared in intervening months — and now, it's time to replant.  

On Friday, Mayor Annise Parker and Joe Turner, director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, joined with leaders from the Memorial Park Conservancy (MPC) and other local non profits to reveal the details of RE-Plant Houston's implementation of the Memorial Park Forestry Plan.

 Parker acknowledged that fulfillment of the plan will take millions of private dollars and thousands of volunteer hours, and she recognizes that the work will be slow going.  

In the midst of the trees of Memorial Park — undoubtedly one of the city's most beloved and iconic settings — the group discussed the funding and the logistics for the multi-year, multi-part campaign, which is based upon a forestry plan developed by MPC over the past 10 years, long before the drought began. 

MPC director Nancy Sullivan says that the drought necessitated two big changes to that initial plan: A large-scale removal of dead trees in the forested areas to allow room for seedlings and saplings, and the eradication of invasive species and underbrush. 

Parker acknowledged that fulfillment of the plan will take millions of private dollars and thousands of volunteer hours, and she recognizes that the work will be slow going. 

"[Memorial Park isn't] going to look like it has for a long time, but it's going to be a fuller, healthier park when we get through," she said. 

And the work has already begun: Trees for Houston donated $50,000 to develop the North Triangle, which separates the soccer and softball fields from the tennis center. The Houston Parks Board gave a portion of its grant from the Wortham Foundation to be put towards the MPC's newly-created conservation director position.

The Houston Area Road Runners Association gifted $25,000 to be used toward an engineering study of the Seymour Lieberman Trail, just one of the areas of the park addressed in the Running Trails & Scenic Areas Plan, which is estimated to cost $6.5 million. Replanting of trees and an extension of irrigation on the Memorial Park Golf Course is expected to total $300,000.

Those funds will need to be raised by private donations. Click to learn more or to contribute to the park of your choice: Memorial ParkMemorial Park Golf Course, MacGregor Park and Mason Park or Hermann Park

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