Houston’s beloved Memorial Park is in the midst of a renaissance. In 2018, the Kinder Foundation injected the city’s premier green space with a $70 million catalyst gift aimed to accelerate the delivery of 10 years’ worth of Master Plan projects.
Now, one such game-changing master plan project has come to fruition, with the opening of the Clay Family Eastern Glades, the first major project of the 2015 Memorial Park Master Plan and the associated Ten-Year Plan. The project reclaims and restores 100 acres of largely inaccessible and ecologically distressed parkland, according to a press release.
The glades, a $35 million undertaking, opened to the public on Friday, July 31.
The new glades are located north of Memorial Drive between Memorial Park Golf Course and the prestigious Crestwood Drive. The transformed, 100-acre area boasts picnic areas, native wetlands, a savanna, a pine-hardwood forest, green spaces, and miles of accessible trails.
Eastern Glades can be easily accessed from a parking lot with bike racks along the Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail and a pedestrian plaza at the intersection of Crestwood Drive and Blossom Street. The area is accessed by vehicle at the intersection of Memorial Drive and East Memorial Loop Road.
Here are some of the highlights of the project, according to the Memorial Park Conservancy:
- Establishes the 5.5-acre Hines Lake and wetlands providing stormwater detention and reuse for irrigation, and aquatic habitat
- Introduces over 2.5 miles of new boardwalks and accessible walking trails as well as opportunities to experience and learn about natural ecology systems
- Significantly expands community areas with the opening of Live Oak Court, a new food truck court and event lawn, in addition to three covered picnic pavilions, four picnic areas and a grand lakeside plaza
- Draws upon the Park’s history, re-establishing a pedestrian entry at one of the original entrances to Camp Logan, the World War I military training facility for which Memorial Park is named
- Features personal quotes from more than 50 Houstonians describing what the Park means to them. Houston’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate, Madison Petaway, curated these quotes for permanent installation around Eastern Glades’ Central Lawn.
Phase 1 of the Eastern Glades opened in October 2018 and included relocating a portion of East Memorial Loop Road; extending the Seymour Lieberman Trail. The work added new restrooms, parking, dark-sky pedestrian lighting and multiuse trails for safer biking and walking; and provided drainage infrastructure to facilitate stormwater management and water purification. The Uptown Development Authority funded and led Phase I of the project, per a release.
Nelson Byrd Woltz served as the lead design firm for the Master Plan and the Eastern Glades project, according to a release. The City of Houston invested $10 million in Eastern Glades through the Uptown TIRZ for project infrastructure. The balance of the remaining $25 million comes courtesy of donors including Emily and Robert Clay ($10 million), Wendy and Jeff Hines, the Kinder Foundation.
“The Conservancy has done impressive work restoring nearly 40 acres of degraded habitat in Eastern Glades so far and planting more than 150 native species to help promote and sustain wildlife,” said Nancy Kinder, president and CEO of the Kinder Foundation and a pivotal park partner, in a statement. “Restoring the landscape not only creates wonderful spaces for people to enjoy nature, but also provides important benefits for the overall ecology of the Park and plays an integral role in stormwater management.
“This opening is just the start of what is to come. Memorial Park is a regional treasure, and we look forward to witnessing the Park’s continued transformation.”