Memorial Park Trees Taken Down as the Significant Land Bridge Project Progresses
A Tree Hugger's Personal Ode to the Lost Oaks of Houston's Showcase ParkBY Shelby Hodge // 09.14.20
The median along Memorial Drive in Memorial Park is a stark contrast to what was there only last week. It will be covered with land bridges that create a connection between the north and south sides of the park as well as a tunnel for automobile traffic. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The median along Memorial Drive in Memorial Park, photographed last month, provided an eye-pleasing shield against the sun and distant visions of the Galleria area's urbanity. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Memorial Park Conservancy's rendering of the Land Bridge project.
The streetscape along Memorial Drive through Memorial Park was an eye-pleasing verdant scene until last week when the center trees were demolished. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Trunks of trees downed on the south side of Memorial Drive as Memorial Park makes way for land bridges and an environmentally friendly coastal prairie. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Memorial Park Conservancy heralds the transformation of tree shaded spaces to a coastal prairie. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Once hidden by Memorial Park trees, high rises and utility wires are now on the horizon and will hopefully disappear behind the land bridges. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Trees formerly lined the ball field drive, both making way for the Memorial Park Land Bridge Project and the environmentally friendly coastal prairie. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Say goodbye to these trees once the Memorial Park Land Bridge project is in full swing. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The Memorial Park Land Bridge project is underway with a completion date of 2022. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
A coastal prairie is in the making in Memorial Park. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The land bridge across Memorial Drive as envisioned by landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz. (Courtesy photo)
Memorial Park's loop is a popular destination for runners of all distances.(Courtesy photo)
It was a shock to drivers along Memorial Drive over the weekend to discover that the verdant canopy of towering oaks and pines in the Memorial Park median and to the south of the six-lane fairway were gone. Orange barrels, one ignominious porta potty and tree stumps littered what promises to be two expansive treeless knolls blessedly connecting both sides of Memorial Park, now disrupted by the roadway.
Memorial Park Conservancy and its supporters are celebrating the beginning of the $70 million Land Bridge project, 100 acres of mature shade trees and ball fields giving way to a much-ballyhooed and highly valued coastal prairie.
The conservancy and other conservation entities avidly boast the benefits of coastal prairie preservation and reconstruction. However, the current eyesore of electrical wires and Galleria area high-rises now on the distant horizon rocks our notion of cocooning beneath the lumbering branches that blocked signs of the urban center from which the park previously provided a verdant escape.
As one who walks the heavily shaded Memorial Drive pathways regularly, I knew this was coming. I confess that I have not loved the concept from the beginning. But I am not one to chain myself to a tree for its preservation. Let the landscape experts and the major donors prevail.
Nevertheless, my heart suffers at sight of the piles of tree trunks and stumps that line the construction zone. Yes, the conservancy notes on its website that the fallen trees will be put to good use. Some of the younger, healtheir ones have been replanted further east along the median.
How I look forward to 2022 when the Land Bridge project is expected to be completed and the distressing visuals eliminated.
The 10-year, $200 million Master Plan for the park as envisioned by renowned landscape architect firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, in particular the land bridge and the accompanying coastal prairie, is being heralded as among the most significant public park designs in the country. It falls in line with the recently completed Clay Family Eastern Glades design with the Hines Lake, all of which is a beautiful, engaging addition to the park.
To assure the master plan integrity, the conservancy notes on the website: “The input of over 3,000 Houstonians informed the Master Plan process, including 25 ecological scientists, and 50 additional informants ranging from storm water management experts to historians to park stakeholder groups.”
And yes, I have studied the site that notes: “Both prairie and wetlands serve important habitat and stormwater management functions and are a key part of the Park’s ecological restoration to ensure resiliency.”
Nevertheless, I lament the loss of those beautiful trees providing shade from our soaring temperatures that govern our outdoor activity for much of the year. I weep for the beautiful banks of lost trees and the disappearing pools of cooling shade.