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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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

I have been creating long distance walking tours in Houston since 2016. One thing, I learned quickly is that I better be curious and ready to learn….ALOT. It has been a wonderful ride. Here are a few things that you probably didn't know about Houston.

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Scandal of Rice University

Rice University is known as the Ivy League of Houston. But, I bet you didn't know that it almost did not exist. William Marsh Rice made his fortune in Houston. With a net worth of $3 million, he was the second richest man in Texas. He wanted to give back by opening a university here. This is where it gets interesting. His lawyer, Albert T. Patrick decided that he deserved the money more. He and Rice's valet, Charles F. Jones, murdered Rice using chloroform. Patrick wrote a series of forged checks to himself to acquire the fortune. They would have gotten away with it, but, one of the checks had Rice's name misspelled. Houston thanks the Rice's trusted friend and lawyer, James Baker for not letting sleeping dogs lie. Not only do we have an amazing university, but Houston Tourism Gym has some great tours starting at Rice University.

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Secret Bubble Button of Buffalo Bayou

Many people have heard of the secret bubble button of Buffalo Bayou. Few know where it actually is. You can find this urban legend on the Mosbacher Bridge before you get to the Wortham Center. What will happen if you push this button? A massive bubble display will appear in Buffalo Bayou beneath the bridge. How did it get there? This secret attraction was installed by artist Dean Ruck to help churn the bayou and keep it oxygenated. This helps to control foul odors in the bayou. Press here to see the Secret Bubble Button in action. Unfortunately, the button had to be disabled during Hurricane Harvey and has yet to be reactivated.

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Market Square Park was home to not ONE, but FOUR City Halls.

Four score and only a couple hundred years ago. Okay 1836. Market Square Park was actually home to city hall and an open market that sold goods that arrived from Allen's Landing, where the Allen Brothers founded Houston. You could buy meat, firearms, produce, and animals at the market. Due to storms and fires, city hall had to be rebuilt four times until finally it was moved to 901 Bagby St.

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Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine.

We have all had the light and tasty Kolsch by Karbach called Love Street. The real Love Street was a psychedelic club called Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine. None other than David Adickes (artist of Virtuoso and the I Love Houston Sign) was the owner. Love Street showed light shows in the Zonk Out room and featured a number of psychedelic bands from the 60's. Another cool fact is Love Street was one of the first places that ZZ Top performed.

When you are out and about, take time to stop and ask a few questions. This way you not only learn about the beautiful city that we call home, but you get to know some of the amazing people that make Houston feel like home!

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