Memorial Park offers another attraction with new center

Oct. 21, 2014Houston Chronicle

Houstonians have a new reason to visit Memorial Park. The 4,400-square-foot Running Trails Center opened on Oct. 10. The $2.4 million facility offers park goers locker rentals, showers and a meeting room that will be available for weddings and special events.

Located at 7575 North Picnic Lane, the center is on the south end of the Living Bridge near the intersection of Memorial Drive and Woodway Drive. The center adds additional parking and provides direct access to several of the park’s trailheads. The building also provides office space for the Memorial Park Conservancy and theHouston Police Department.

“The building will largely serve the trails. It’s a place to come and set up base before exploring the rest of the park,” said Shellye Arnold, executive director of the Memorial Park Conservancy. “Even though it’s called the Running Trails Center, it’s for all visitors: runners, cyclists, bird watchers, hikers. It’s for anyone who wants to use the park.”

More than 10,000 runners use the park’s trails each day.

“Many runners run close to here,” said Arnold of the placement of the center. “(The location) helps balance park use between the north side and south side and serves to decongest the park a bit.”

The Running Trails Center is the final project funded through the Conservancy’s 2008 Memorial Park Capital Campaign. The campaign raised $10 million to build the Running Trails Center, the Living Bridge, the Alkek Tennis Center Plaza and the Outer Loop Trail.

“We are very thankful to Mindy Hildebrand for her untiring fundraising efforts as chair of the campaign,” said Joe Turner, director of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. “We invite visitors to Memorial Park to enjoy all four projects made possible through this campaign.”

Memorial Park is undergoing a long-term Master Plan redesign to improve accessibility and upgrade park facilities. Ongoing public meetings are held to discuss the new design before the plan is presented to city council next spring. The next Master Plan public meeting will be Nov. 10 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the White Oak Conference Center at 7603 Antoine Drive.

The Running Trail Center is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Shower rentals are 75 cents. Locker rental is $1. Houston Parks and Recreation staff members are available on-site.

For more information, visit Memorial Park Conservancy http://www.memorialparkconservancy.org/

For a Memorial Park map, visit http://www.memorialparkconservancy.org/images/map.jpg

For the Memorial Park master plan, visit http://memorialparktomorrow.org/