Culture / Newsy

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 Park

BY // 09.14.20

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.

Memorial Park trees
Say goodbye to these trees once the Memorial Park Land Bridge project is in full swing. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)

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.

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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.

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