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Memorial Park Conservancy soon to unveil Clay Family Eastern Glades

100 of previously inaccessible parkland ecologically restored for nature and passive recreation

HOUSTON – Next week, Memorial Park Conservancy is expected to open up the new Clay Family Eastern Glades, 100 acres of predominately inaccessible parkland transformed into a dramatic woodland and passive recreation area at Memorial Park.

The Clay Family Eastern Glades is the first major project to be completed as part of Memorial Park’s 10-Year Master Plan. The project opens to the public at the end of the month, weather-permitting. The Memorial Park Conservancy partnered with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Kinder Foundation and the Uptown Development Authority among other partners to make the vision a reality.

“Right now more than ever, it’s important to have space — to be able to go outside. To be able to relax, rejuvenate — restore your soul! Wetlands and plants all around … Here and here,” said Shellye Arnold, Memorial Park Conservancy president and CEO. “We’ve amended the soils, we’ve taken out invasive species. We’ve planted native plants.”

The space focuses on restoring Houston’s natural eco-systems, building in wetlands, savannah, pine-hardwood forests, habitats and planting more than 150 species of native plants. Teams worked to amend the soil, composting trees from the 2011 drought to enrich it and provide a healthy foundation for growth.

“We engaged 25 ecological scientists — most of whom were volunteers, the best of the best in their fields, to identify what needed to be done to create a sustainable and healthy ecology,” Arnold said.

They also built 2.5 miles of boardwalks and trails as well as vast picnicking areas, including Live Oak Court, a food truck court and event lawn, alongside three covered picnic pavilions and four picnic pads. It will have a new parking lot with bike racks along the Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail and a pedestrian plaza at the intersection of Crestwood Drive and Blossom Street.

There is even a 5.5 acre Hines Lake where animals have already made themselves at home.

“There’s fencing along those wetlands planting because the turtles keep eating the baby wetlands plants, so we made little nurseries,” Arnold said.

Intentionality in virtually ever choice. Even the art deco limestone is a nod to Houston’s past.

“It’s inspired by the city buildings that were built in the 20s and 30s for Houston,” Arnold said.

Tipping its hat to history, the Eastern Glades honors the park’s military past.

“This access that leads from Blossom and Crestwood down to the lake and beyond was originally, a Camp Logan road into the military training camp, and so we’ve honored the soldiers that pass through these proverbial gates,” Arnold said.

Arnold said they could not have done this without their many sponsors and donors. She said public-private partnerships helped to create this space, which they hope makes Houstonians proud.

“It’s a tie back to our history, to our present and to the future. We intend for this to be a place where generations of Houstonians will create memories,” Arnold said.

Weather-permitting, they hope to open the Clay Family Eastern Glades to the public at the end of the month.

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