MAJOR GREEN TO MEMORIAL PARK

Houston, prepare for a whole new Memorial Park thanks to massive $70 million gift

Houstonians can expect Eastern Glades in Memorial Park. Courtesy photo

Steven Devadanam is editor of CultureMap/Houston, where this article originally appeared:

In 2011, the future of Memorial Park looked bleak, with news that as much of 80 percent of its trees could be lost to the devastating drought. What a difference seven years makes.

Philanthropic Houston couple Rich and Nancy Kinder have announced that their Kinder Foundation is offering a grant of $70 million to fast-track Memorial Park’s Master Plan, one of the nation’s largest and most visionary urban park restorations. The mammoth gift is the largest to any Houston park, and would fast-track the plan from proposal to reality in 10 years — meaning good news for the Bayou City’s iconic symbol that spans 1,500 acres in the inner loop. The forward-looking plan should elevate Memorial Park — already nearly double New York’s Central Park — as one of the most elite urban greenspaces in the country. 

The new plan calls for a $200 million in upgrades, featuring a unique nature bridge that will connect the park’s north and south sides, providing safe crossing for all people and wildlife within a cohesive park experience of restored prairie and trails. Other additions include a trail/bridge system north over I-10, linking the White Oak Bayou Greenway trail system, and south over Buffalo Bayou; a 1.5-mile accessibility trail through the 600-acre wilderness on the south side; and other trails and crossings.  

Houstonians can also expect a 100-acre Eastern Glades project, already in progress, that will add a large, quiet, and shady respite for picnicking, leisurely strolls, and other passive pastimes, and will feature a 5-acre lake and wetlands.  Other developments include Memorial Groves, a tribute site that will honor Memorial Park’s original use as one of only 16 National Guard training camps for WWI soldiers; a running complex, with a quarter-mile timing track and concessions; replaced and rebuilt ball fields; and ancillary parking, restrooms, and signage. The nationally acclaimed landscape architectural firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz, has led the design of the park.

That the staggering gift should come from the Kinder Foundation should be no surprise to Houstonians. The Kinders have become synonymous with Houston’s urban development, with the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and their continued support of at least $100 million to Houston parks.

The formal announcement was made by Mayor Sylvester Turner during a press briefing on April 25. This news comes as a revised and restated Memorial Park Development Agreement has been presented before the Quality of Life Committee of the City Council, one that requires  city council approval. Spearheading the Master Plan is the Memorial Park ConservancyHouston Parks and Recreation Department, and the Uptown Development Authority.

“With the City Council’s approval, this historic gift will enhance a park that draws users from all over Houston, boosts the city’s entire park system and help make Houston more flood-resilient,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner at the press briefing. “The Kinders’ past generosity to several signature Houston parks, along with this latest magnificent gesture, means their foundation is ever more a constant catalyst for health, recreation, community engagement, appreciation of nature, green space preservation and other quality-of-life factors that help make our city great.

Let’s all applaud Kinder Foundation for its vision and commitment to making Memorial Park a treasured destination place for years to come.

 

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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