Houston’s Memorial Park remains one of the largest urban parks in America, covering nearly 1,500 acres right in the heart of Houston. The park first opened in 1924 after being converted from a U.S. Army training camp. Today, the park includes one of Texas’ top-rated golf courses, extensive sports and exercise facilities, pools, and running courses. The park sees millions of visitors a year.
Unfortunately, all of those visitors take a toll on the park grounds, as do hurricanes and droughts. For that reason, the Memorial Park Conservancy was formed in 2013 to help formulate a “Master Plan” for the park’s future. This week, the Memorial Park Conservancy announced it has received an eye-popping $70 million donation to help preserve Memorial Park. What will this mean for the park going forward?
Ultimately, it means the Master Plan will likely succeed. The $70 million donation came from the Kinder Foundation, a Houston-based nonprofit organization founded by Rich Kinder whose mission is to “enrich the lives of people in the Greater Houston area through transformational grants that impact urban green space, education and quality of life.” In a press release, Kinder says this donation will help the park continue its legacy and serve the needs of future Houstonians:
Memorial Park, one of the nation’s largest parks, is much-loved by Houstonians and requires ongoing maintenance. Our experience is that it takes a carefully designed public-private partnership to ensure that a park reaches its true potential. The partnership the Kinder Foundation has conceived with the City sets the stage for a more vibrant Memorial Park.
The Memorial Park Master Plan was unveiled in 2015 and includes an expansion of the park which will see hundreds of acres of inaccessible or disconnected sections of the park brought together. There are also significant changes planned for park amenities including the addition of 30 more miles of hiking, biking, and running trails. More importantly, the Master Plan includes a plan for improving plant and animal habitats within the park, creating distinct ecological zones to make the park more resilient, and improve water control infrastructure. Ultimately, the Kinder Foundation’s donation will help improve the park and make it an even better place to visit for free outdoor fun right in the heart of Houston.