New Memorial Park Plan Gets City Go-Ahead; Museum Park Cafe Goes Barnaby’s

McGovern Centennial Gardens, Hermann Park

Photo of McGovern Centennial Gardens, Hermann Park: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool


26 Comment

  • so basement remodeling is one of the top 5 home remodel projects in Houston with the best returns. exactly whom does this apply to?

  • That HAR list of 150 Houston area nabes is whack. Nothing of the inner-loop East End except for slums like Denver Harbor.

  • Agree Joel. I thought the same exact thing! Are they talking about remodeling a home that is less than 20 years old or a home that is 50 years old and in original condition?!?!? Article is missing context.

  • the sharpstown civic meeting take over by the council member is worth a read. sounds like the civic club knows a lot more than the other stakeholders, police, council, tirz and local management district.


  • @Dana – East End doesnt register when putting together lists on Chron or HAR.

  • Hahaha, didnt know # of crossfit gyms and starbucks were a measuring factor for neighborhoods.

  • I’m amazed at what 1000 Main was sold for.

    Los Angeles is fixing city sidewalks? What a concept.

  • Is no one else appalled at a plan to spend $300 million (yes that number has two zeroes) for a single city park? I know it’s a popular park, but sheesh that seems excessive.

    There are TONS of other COH parks that get nothing more than a twice monthly mowing by the city. My neighborhood park lost 50 trees in the 2011 drought, and I had to scrape around with non-profits and volunteers to get those replaced. The Parks and Rec manager came out to meet us to plan the planting – he said he had not set foot in our park in the past 5 years. At the time, I asked about the city’s parks strategy or plan, and got blank stares. I asked why some parks have playground equipment, basketball courts, softball fields, etc. No one seemed to know – those parks just got those amenities one day, and now the Parks Dept is in perpetual mowing mode – no new amenities allowed, unless paid for by someone else. The manager’s #1 concern was that his crew’s 48″ mower deck would fit between whatever we put there.

    Just like the hike and bike trail projects, there needs to be a city-wide plan to have a network of parks that serve the populace. They should use demographic studies to make decisions and allocate resources, not just throw millions at the few parks that get the most visibility. While these parks are nice and give the city a good image for visitors, you get a lot more bang for your buck by partially improving all parks, rather than totally improving a few parks. You also increase public health and quality of life for everyone, even poor people. They need goals like having a walking trail within a 10 minute drive for every citizen, ensuring areas with high children counts have playground equipment, establishing the number of softball fields needed based on reservation/permit demand, etc. – the sky’s the limit. City government is so f’ed up sometimes.

  • @Superdave: I’m not appalled. That’s a plan to spend money over 20 years, but not actual funding. Chances are slim the plan will be followed.
    And even if it is, a lot more Houstonians use that park than use the pokey little parks out by me.
    And please don’t ask for any more studies. We spend too much on studies already.

  • Superdave, look into where funding is coming from. most of it is from the tirz, and fundraising by the memorial park conservancy, some will come from state and federal.
    so what you aught to do is make a conservancy for the park near your house, that way you can scrape up better funding for the upkeep and beautification projects that should be undertaken. then you can get the local tirz involved to donate more, and so on and so forth.
    Yes, more money should be spread around for all parks in Houston that will benefit everyone, but memorial park is a special park for all of Houston.

  • I agree with you so much, Superdave, that for a minute I thought I was reading one of my own old posts from Swamplot.
    The inequities are staggering between Houston’s signature parks, (Memorial Park, Hermann Park, Discovery Green) and the rest of the parks. From artwork to entertainment, the signature parks get it all; while neighborhood parks suffer from a lack of investment. I drive by Braeburn Glen Park almost every day, and it really kills me to see a park that’s hugely popular (always packed) but has old, decrepit playground equipment, overgrown grass, and cheap chain link fences they look like they should be around a jail and not a park.
    What Houston really needs is a Parks Conservancy, or two or three Conservancies for different quartes of the City. The signature parks have their own Conservancies, as Toasty said, which is why they have a louder voice and get much more investment. At the same time, it’s probably not practical for every little park to have it’s own Conservancy. But having one, or three or four Conservancies for them could definitely help level the playing fields (pun intended).

  • You’re near the Willow Waterhole aren’t you, Memebag? Hardly what I would call a pokey little park. Actually I’m surprised the Willow Waterhole doesn’t have a Conservancy. I guess the Management District has taken up the slack on that. They got the Levitt Pavillion folks to come in, after all.
    There is another option for bigger parks, Superdave: lobby to get Harris County to take the park over from the City of Houston. It won’t work for small neighborhood parks, because the County has minimum sizes that they’ll do. But the Harris County Commissiners do an infinitely better job than the COH Parks people at maintaining and upgrading parks.

  • From the bird’s-eye overview picture of the Memorial Park plan, it looks like the most visible manifestation of the plan is basically cutting down half the trees in the park to make “savannah”. I see enough “savannah” on every empty lot in the city, thank you very much.

    Remove bird habitat, put down concrete. Remove the mystery and wildness of the woods, put down a Hermann Park/Disneyland style outdoor playplace.

    Here’s my suggestion:
    1. Build a bike path along Memorial to 610, like the one there is along Woodway. There’s already a “goat trail” there.
    2. Build a bridge across the Bayou to the Post Oak area on the power line / railroad easement for bikes / peds.
    3. Encourage more people to use the park, including the wild areas, through increased security for cars and minor, natural-scale brush clearing.
    4. Otherwise, leave it the hell alone.

  • @Memebag & toasty

    More people use Memorial Park because it has more amenities, funding and improvement than other parks. To argue that other parks (used less because they have fewer – if any – amenities) should not get funding or improvement to add amenities, is circular logic. Of course no one uses my neighborhood park. It has a narrow concrete sidewalk, 2 BBQ pits, and some 20 year old playground equipment. If it had a shady, tree-lined crushed granite jogging trail, I would jog there rather than sitting on Loop 610 after work to get to Memorial. If my neighborhood park had a softball field, my league would schedule games there instead of Memorial, where competition for field permits is cut-throat, and parking is a nightmare during early evening hours. If it had a dog park, it would be used round the clock by pet-owning residents.

    I’m not against improving Memorial or the other “boutique” parks in the system (Buffalo Bayou, Discovery Green, and Hermann) – there is a need for these. But taking those as examples, Hermann has just gone through $30 million in upgrades for a garden center and granite jogging path, and Buffalo Bayou just went through $70 million, which involved very expensive bayou channel improvements and a substantial network of cleverly engineered pedestrian bridges. Taking those combined values and tripling it is excessive.

    My whole point is that if the city a “parks” plan (rather than a single “park” plan) that affected the whole city, they could fundraise a fraction of the amount and make a big difference for many, many people.

  • I don’t think a TIRZ in south park, 3rd ward or southwest houston is going to be raking in the dough to fix anything. that’s why we have city-wide taxes. now, when we’re raising taxes in the most heavily commercial and travelled districts with the highest rates of private/commercial investment in all of houston with the intent of recycling that funding into those districts only, we’ve basically created a way to legally sidestep the entire idea of taxation and improve wealthy districts only at the expense of the rest of the city. I’m assuming the TIRZ funding comes from property taxes and to me it looks like a road map to heighten income segregation and decrease social mobility by raising the level of services in wealthy districts by not improving the poorer districts.
    cutting to the chase, it’s about wealthy residents/businesses being willing to donate funding (whether to a conservancy or through higher tax rates) to fix theimmediate area. you can’t replicate this in poorer districts and these funding sources will never be in place. never ever. i thought the idea of raising taxes was to fix the city as a whole to improve GDP growth and social mobility by creating a more mobile and competitive labor market, but this is Texas.
    even if this money is being privately raised, superdave’s point is still perfectly valid. this is money that could have been reaped through higher taxes to improve other districts that could see far higher returns through property tax increases rather than shoveling it all into well developed areas. of course this won’t work in real life because why would river oaks want to fund improving a park in southwest houston, it makes no sense. there’s no ideal way to handle it all, but would be nice to see the state/feds be required to move a percentage of the funding devoted to memorial park to other parks in greater need based on the total amount of privately raised funding being provided to memorial park. that’s fair and makes sense, current methods aren’t and don’t.

  • Superdave, the City did a Parks Master Plan a few years ago that included an investment plan. Whether or not you agree with its recommendations is another matter.

  • I’ve been to Willow Waterhole a few times. Every time I go I think I must be missing part of the park, the fun part. Then I get home and look on Google maps and see that no, I wasn’t missing any part of it. It’s a flood control water retention pit with a name. There is stagnant water. There is sunshine with no shade. I wouldn’t call it a “park”.

  • Superdave, try to grasp this – Memorial Park is a 1,500 acre park in the heart of the city. It is infinitely more important than your little neighborhood park with two barbecue grills out in nowhere. And if you are upset that $300 million will be spent on it, were you upset that $450 million was spent on Reliant stadium? A lot more people use Memorial Park a lot more often than use that football stadium (and it makes them healthier and better looking, which the football stadium does not).

  • @ Little Texas in Japan: Asia is not short of places with a Texas theme. Nearly any city with a decent expat or tourist population has one; some cities have more than one. However, they usually lack supplies or an understanding of the importance of key ingredients. It also seems as though Aussies have the greatest propensity to attempt Tex-Mex commercially and their food sensibilities are derived from England…I’ll just leave it at that.

  • @Mike: there’s that ITL Superiority Complex again – so common here on Swamplot.
    Memorial Park is a big park, true, but it’s not as big as George Bush Park. It’s a nice park, and near some extremely wealthy parts of town. But I wouldn’t say it’s in the heart of the City (that honor goes to Discovery Green); nor would I say it’s the primary park that people visit when they come to Houston from far away. I would sooner give Hermann Park that honor: it has the zoo, and a performance venue, and it’s right next to Rice University and the Museums.
    I would also say that the signature parks are certainly NOT “more important” than neighborhood parks – or at least, they shouldn’t be. Neighborhood parks are what bring communities together. They break up he quasi-suburban monotony that is most of Houston. They provide desperately needed public green space. It’s tempting for some bureaucrats to ignore them and pour all of our resources into a handful of signature parks; but it’s certainly not fair or the right thing to do.

  • Willow Waterhole Fest April 25th FYI

  • ZAW, Memorial Park is far more centrally located than George Bush Park and in a denser area, therefore more important. It’s not really “ITL superiority” if it is supported by the basic logic of how many people it serves. And yes, it is in the “heart” of the city, if you look at where people live and where traffic patterns are, Memorial Park has as good a claim on the heart as any major park.
    And spare me the sentimentality about neighborhood parks, Memorial serves far more people than any neighborhood park, not to mention being a showcase for the city, and is therefore much more important. I love Elizabeth K. Meyer Park where I grew up, more even than I love Memorial, but I’m not going to pretend that it even comes close in importance.

  • @Superdave. So what’s stopping you or your Homeowner’s Association from pitching in an improving your neighborhood park? Or try to get a coalition of neighborhood businesses to fund some improvements in the name of community outreach? Obviously, it would benefit the people who in theory would use it the most. As far as 20 year playground equipment is concerned–does it really have that short of a shelf life and will a bunch of 4 year old kids really know or care?

  • So, density is a measure of a park’s value, Mike? Really? If that’s the case, then Burnett Bayland Park is tremendously valuable. As I’m always pointing out, Gulfton is Houston’s densest neighborhood. But Burnett Bayland Park is another one of those depressingly neglected neighborhood parks; ignored because it doesn’t have a Conservancy and rich people nearby who care about it.
    To go back to what Superdave and I are saying. It’s not that they’re spending money to fix up Memorial Park. It’s that they don’t spend money to fix up other parks, even though the need in those other parks is greater. IMO it would be awesome if, instead of pumping $300 million into Memorial Park, they only put $100 million into Memorial Park (still a lot of money) and divvied up the remaining $200 million among other parks around town.
    But alas, no. Our smaller, lesser known neighborhood parks will continue to be neglected because, as you said (and as City Hall seems to think) they’re just not important.

  • @ZAW: “It’s not that they’re spending money to fix up Memorial Park.”
    They are not spending money to fix up Memorial Park. They approved a 20 year plan. Nothing has been funded.
    Well, of course the city spends money on Memorial Park, and all of its parks. But that’s not what this vote was about.

  • As a longtime Inner Looper, I’m a fan of Memorial, Hermann, and Discovery Green. (My favorite of the three is Hermann by far, though.) But, I see the points that are being made by Superdave and ZAW: namely, let’s spread some of the (money) love around to the ALL of the parks, rather than concentrate it.
    Yes, the vote was about a plan – but why couldn’t the vote for a plan to spend $100 million on Memorial and $200 million to all other parks?
    Superdave made a great point that every citizen should have a decent park within 10 minutes of their home. This would improve quality-of-life and the possibility of health metrics. Plus, in a larger scope, it reduces traffic congestion since people don’t have to drive farther to go to the park.