Review: Memorial Park’s Eastern Glades

Good, Better, and Some Ugly

Also: Black Lives Matter 1917

August 15, 2020

The best part about Memorial Park’s new Eastern Glades is the boardwalk through the woods.

Visitors to the popular park on Buffalo Bayou in the middle of Houston can now easily wander and wonder at our native woods and wetlands, complete with dead trees or snags, a vital part of the forest ecology. (Perhaps some signage will be coming along to explain the snags and wetlands to city slickers.)

There are also vast expanses of thick green exotic Zoysia grass for picnicking or just lying around, a Live Oak Court for events, and some lovely pavilions and picnic areas for outdoor grilling and dining, though the pavilions are currently closed due to the Covid.

A family strolls on the boardwalk through the wetland woods of the recently opened Eastern Glades in Houston’s Memorial Park. Photo by SC August 2, 2020

The 100-acre Glades, on the east side of the park north of Memorial Drive, opened at the end of July. The $35 million project, including $10 million in public funds, features a 5.5-acre artificial lake for detention and water re-use, 2.5 miles of new trails, and environment-friendly dark sky lighting. It’s the first phase of a long-term renovation of the 1,464-acre park, about 40 percent of which is the 600-acre plus golf course (until 1995 the course occupied only 260 acres), recently redone with $13.5 million in private funds to support the PGA Tour’s Houston Open. Sadly, this redoing involved the removal of large numbers of trees so that crowds of spectators can have a better view of the professional golfers during tournaments.

More Green, Less Gray, Some Bad and Very Ugly

The Eastern Glades is part of the long-term Master Plan for the once heavily forested park. Next comes the controversial Land Bridge, which will cover Memorial Drive and connect the north and south sides of the park. This too involves the removal of a great many more trees, although the current design looks greener and less industrial than previous drawings.

Although many trees were removed for the Eastern Glades and a thick carpet of exotic grass laid down, as built the area also seems somewhat gentler, greener, wetter, and wilder than the original plans, allowing at least for a less manicured, more natural experience of the remaining woods. We, and many others, are thankful for that, as Memorial Park was always meant to remain in as natural a state as possible. Let’s hope this aesthetic influences treatment of the rest of the park.

And maybe those bright purple irrigation lines snaking through the woods near the boardwalk are only temporary.

Big Depressing Mistake

The design of the formal Oval Promenade of the Eastern Glades is loosely based on the 1920’s Hare and Hare plan (p. 21) for a formal entry into the park at Blossom Street. From 1917-19 the land which became the park in 1924 was part of Camp Logan, a World War I military training facility and hospital that at the time extended past what is now Westcott Street. See note below. (Ed. Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the original entrance to Camp Logan was at Blossom Street. The camp entrance was at what is now Washington Avenue and Arnot.)

Alas, the massive, newly built stone entrance into the park at Blossom Street is preposterously ugly, jarringly out of character in material, color, texture, style, and scale with the surrounding natural scenery and the airy, restrained architecture of the cabin-like pavilions. Built of depressing gray and blindingly bright hot white, beige-y Central Texas limestone or shellstone, the design intentionally evokes the 1920s or 30s. Why? Does it have to look dated? Can we not move forward?

Read the rest of this post.

Limestone wall, benches, and deck at the edge of the recently constructed lake in Memorial Park’s Eastern Glades. Photo Aug. 2, 2020

5 thoughts on “Review: Memorial Park’s Eastern Glades”

  1. WILLIAM OWENS says:

    It disturbs me that the story of Camp Logan gets so badly distorted. For one thing, the entrance to the park at Blossom and Crestwood was never an entrance to the camp. What is now the Crestwood-Glencove Subdivisions was part of the camp and contained the camp hospital. The main entrance to Camp Logan was at Arnot and the traffic circle. The camp was bigger than Memorial Park. For another, the Camp Logan riot did not originate in what is now the park but near Detering and Washington where the Black soldiers were camped. And, please!, let’s save Buffalo Bayou.

    1. Thanks. Will edit the post to make that clear. And it seems that having been part of Camp Logan is the reason the neighborhood east of the park is called Rice Military.

  2. Kamidenmark says:

    Here in central Florida the zoysia option yields brown lawns for way too much of the year.

    Bermuda grass is terrible but a green option. St Augustine floratam grows but is basically crabgrass.
    In Florida we say anything green is great. I am staying inspired, keep up your
    great work.

    1. Thanks. It seems that zoysia is also extremely invasive, which could make it hard to control and keep out of the surrounding native areas. Let’s hope not.

      1. GlenW says:

        Omg, so they introduced an extremely invasive species? Wth? This is very disappointing. Almost as bad as removing trees that were saved from drought.
        But I can only imagine the campaigning, politicking, fund-raising, balancing act it must be to get anything close to natural here in sprawl-town.
        I will say I’m glad we have the park at all.

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