Runners, walkers, cyclists and skaters, too, use Houston’s Memorial Park as a place to stay fit, enjoy the outdoors, connect with one another and even stimulate the mind. The park, which spans 1,500 acres and serves 170 ZIP codes, is currently working on major revitalization projects that emphasize nature and resiliency. In an effort to restore the natural landscape and create wildlife habitats, the park is also transforming itself into a more eco-conscious destination.
We’re especially excited for the park’s projects and programs that feature ecological restoration, land reclamation and native revegetation.
Eastern Glades Project
Last fall, phase I of the Eastern Glades Project opened, but the park expects it to be fully complete later this year. Inspired by the original 1930s plan for the park, the project reclaims 100 acres of previously inaccessible land and honors the military history of the area. With the land reclamation comes expanded picnic areas, new facilities, longer running trails and a five-acre lake with wetlands.
Restoring the natural ecology of the reclaimed land was an important goal of the project. This required invasive species removal, native plantings and reforestation, along with new drainage infrastructure to support the new facilities. The lake is also a critical component to restoring the natural landscape because it allows native species to create habitats and provides the ability to reuse storm water.
Land Bridge and Prairie Restoration Project
The Land Bridge and Prairie Restoration Project, which covers approximately 100 acres, has a completion date of late 2022. The land bridge portion of the project reunites the north and south sides of the park and serves as a safe passage for people and wildlife. The prairie portion of the project re-introduces endangered native Gulf Coast prairie and wetlands to the park and aides the restoration and habitation creation efforts.
A panel of 25 ecological scientists and experts helped with the ecological restoration and conversion objectives. The goals for this project are greater resiliency during natural disruptions, improved animal and insect habitats and expansion of stormwater management capabilities.
The Land Bridge and Prairie Project is a win for the environment because of the many green benefits.
- Land reclamation: By converting roadways, parking lots and sport fields back to native prairie, the result is a more sustainable ecology and healthier habitat that supports a higher-functioning management of stormwater.
- Prairie restoration: Prairie absorbs more rain per hour than any other native ecosystem. Restoring this type of habitat provides more resiliency for the park and aides with retention during flooding.
- Wetlands: Thanks to runoff filtering, wetlands offer a natural water purification system that helps reduce the amount of chemicals released into the watershed. Carbon and greenhouse gases are also stored in sinks in wetlands, preventing harmful air emissions.
- Diversity: The restoration and revitalization of the land supports the growth of existing native species of flora and fauna in the region while preventing invasive ones. It also allows migratory species a temporary habitat refuge.
Native Grow-Out Program
The Native Grow-Out Program aides in the park’s ecological resiliency by cultivating native plants in the park’s greenhouse. The program provides a dependable supply of native plants and increases habitat restoration potential.
Approximately 200,000 seedlings are grown in the greenhouse yearly, and volunteers meet weekly to clean and plant seeds and fertilize and replant plants. In 2019, the Program—thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers—was able to cultivate 60,000 hard-to-source native species that will be planted in project areas throughout the park.
The BioCycle Operation works in tandem with the Native Grow-Out Program by providing the necessary native soils and grasses for native plants. It, too, helps with habitat restoration potential, reduces maintenance requirements (and costs!), increases higher rainfall infiltration rates and improves habitat. The process has been recognized by soil biologists from across the U.S. for its uniqueness, production volume and on-site location.
The two-acre mulch processing site and is a repository for trees, clippings, brush and woody materials to break down into organic matter that is then cultivated and used to create bio-mounds. The mounds are necessary to maintain natural areas as the park transitions from invasive-ridden parkland to open areas of prairie, savanna, urban forest and riparian byways.
The process is a key component to the park’s ecological restoration. It provides a more resilient environment for plants and wildlife while also serving as a natural solution for floodwater absorption and management. To date, the operation has supplied more than 15,000 cubic yards of soil.
To learn more about the park’s transformation, check out the Ten Year Plan that helped accelerate progress of all the projects. You can also review the park’s approach to nature and conservation or read some of its research.
Making the planet happy
This project makes us at Green Mountain grin from ear to ear. We’ve been putting the planet first for more than 20 years by providing 100% clean electricity to our customers. We’re excited to see how others are putting sustainable solutions in action to help the planet. We look forward to a cleaner tomorrow when sustainability is part of everyone’s daily routine.