a day at the park
Memorial Park hosts 'Biggest Picnic in Texas' to celebrate game-changing land bridge grand opening
After years of construction, Memorial Park's game-changing Land Bridge is set to officially open to the public. To toast the milestone moment, Memorial Park Conservancy and its partners are hosting what's (fittingly) dubbed "The Biggest Picnic in Texas" at 10 am Saturday, February 11.
This free, family-friendly bash at the park grounds (7575 Picnic Ln.) will serve up picnic baskets full of park-friendly provisions from H-E-B (free while supplies last), plus additional food and drink for purchase. Visitors can look forward to live music, face painting, self-guided tours of the Land Bridge and Prairie project, and more, per an event announcement.
Exploring the 100-acre site is encouraged, so much so that all who traverse the bridge, its 35-foot-tall hills, and the prairie can collect stamps in a personal passport booklet and even score prizes as part of the event's hunt, "The Great Prairie Adventure." The event comes courtesy of the conservancy, as well as the City of Houston, Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Kinder Foundation, and Uptown Houston.
While enjoying a park day, residents and visitors can also learn about the conservancy's work on the area in what's now the largest urban prairie restoration in Texas. Guests will also learn about the vital role the prairies play in the Gulf Coast’s cultural and ecological history.
As parking at Memorial Park is coveted even on a regular weekend, expect this event to be jam packed with very little onsite parking. Ride sharing, off-site parking, and public transportation are ideal for the event that promises to see thousands.
A free shuttle to the event is available, with paid parking available at Lot H, 1643 Memorial Dr.
Those opting for a bus can find stations at these stops
- Woodway Drive at Memorial Drive (an 8-minute walk)
- W. Loop North at Woodway Drive (a 12-minute walk)
- N. Post Oak Lane at Woodway Drive (a 16-minute walk)
- 20 Magnolia Park Transit Center (Eastbound)
- 84 Northwest Transit Center (Northbound)
- 47 Northwest Transit Center (Northbound)
More details can be found at the grand opening extravaganza's event page.
Shellye Arnold, CEO of Memorial Park Conservancy, has ushered the land bridge and prairie transformation and tells CultureMap that "giving this gift to Houston will create memories for people immediately. " As soon as that ribbons are cut, people will start enjoying this special special space, a space that was once dominated by the by the road."
Indeed, for years, the park was dominated and bisected by Memorial Drive. Now, visitors and resident wildlife have a safe, scenic connector, one that merges the idea of a forest and green ecosystem with Houston's car town identity. "It's like a little state park in the middle of a city," Arnold explains — an apt description of Houston's crown jewel that — at 1,500 acres — is nearly double the size New York's Central Park.
As CultureMap has reported, The Land Bridge and Prairie is the next milestone project of the Memorial Park Master Plan, thanks to the pivotal Ten-Year Plan, meant to set Memorial Park and Houston on a national and even international stage. A study of weaving nature with urban development, the project utilizes green infrastructure — even stormwater management — to grow a new 100-acre ecological gem.
A transformative element for human visitors, the land bridge, prairie, and park improvements are crucial for its animal dwellers. Most recent estimates reveal 79 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, plus 60 species of birds at the park, meaning that animals will also have a safe respite from unforgiving cars and potentially intrusive human traffic.
Arnold adds that standing atop the land Bridge and its hills is rewarded with scenic views and breeze, with air that's not thick with dust and emissions, a common complaint of runners, hikers, bikers, and all who traverse the area.
Houston has watched the land bridge develop bloom from frustrating Memorial Drive traffic diversions and major construction to the now impressive land feature. Those who enjoy public green spaces and Houston's great outdoors should not miss this picnic and crowning moment, one that will resonate with generations of park lovers to come.
(Full disclosure: CultureMap editor Steven Devadanam is a member of the Memorial Park Conservancy advisory board.)