What Will Memorial Park Look Like In 20 Years?

Tomorrow morning Houston council members will hear about a significant overhaul to Memorial Park. The Memorial Park Master Plan proposes to spend $150 million over the next 20 years to preserve and protect the park.

The first thing you need to know is Memorial Park is about to be annexed into the Uptown Houston District. The second thing you need to know is that may not be a terrible idea.

"You look at that great asset, that jewel — a 1,500-acre park, more than twice the size of Central Park — and it has suffered a significant blow."

That's John Breeding, president of the Uptown Houston District. The blow he's referring to is the loss of 20,000 trees from the drought.

Breeding says bringing the park into the district, also known as TIRZ 16, means tax dollars from the zone can be reinvested into the park. But the zone won't control or own the park.

Buffalo Bayou

"It is a way to take existing tax revenues that the city is collecting and focus them, with discipline, on a needed program. And I couldn't think of things that's perhaps more needed than giving Memorial Park some assistance."

So an infusion of tax dollars from TIRZ 16 could help fund the Memorial Park Master Plan.

But what will the money actually pay for?

Shellye Arnold is executive director of the Memorial Park Conservancy, a group that works with the Houston Parks Department to fundraise for the park. Driving west on Woodway, she pulls over to a spot where the park meets Buffalo Bayou and points out an area where TIRZ 16 money is already allocated for an erosion project.

"We're looking at a big pipe that carries water down into the bayou. And what happens with the water is that it causes erosion, it causes the land around it to erode into the bayou itself. And over time, it eats and eats away at the bayou, so what we're looking at is probably hundreds of feet of erosion from the banks of the bayou that has been caused over years of time."

As for what else the money might do, nobody knows for sure because the master plan hasn't been developed yet. As Arnold points out, there's only a plan to make a plan.

"There are things that people have expressed that they'd like to do. There are many people that would like to put a prairie on the utility easement area. That's a great example. Those are things that could be considered in the context of a master planning process, which will take, you know, will take some time."

In fact, it could take a couple years, dozens of public meetings and hearings and ultimately, city council approval. The Parks Department will present its plan for why TIRZ 16 should annex Memorial Park at a Houston Council Committee meeting tomorrow at 10 a.m. at city hall.

Buffalo Bayou

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...