What New Master Plan Means For Houston’s Memorial Park Trails

Nov. 11, 2014Houston Public Media

A huge makeover is in the works for Houston’s Memorial Park. But bikers and runners who venture into its dense forest to use a network of remote trails worry what the changes will mean.

The park on Houston’s west side covers 1,500 acres and is cut in half by busy Memorial Drive. The majority of park users are on the north side running, golfing, playing tennis or swimming. The south side is — in more ways than one — the wild side. It’s a dense forest criss-crossed by miles of dirt trails.

“If you’re on a bike and someone’s coming around a curve into you that’s a little scary,” said Warren Holleman.

He both runs and rides a mountain bike on the dirt trails. He says while it can get crowded on the narrow paths, there are probably a lot of people who have no idea this remote half of the park exists.

“Shhhhhhh,” Holleman said, indicating the trails are a secret worth keeping. “We’re a little concerned if more people come over here it won’t be as safe because you’ll have a lot of bikers, a lot of walkers and runners. So my hope is that they’ll build more trails.”

His concern stems from the new Memorial Park Long Range Master Plan now under development. It will attempt to bridge the north and south halves, literally. The proposal calls for immense, man-made meadows to be built over sections of Memorial Drive, the aim being to get more people to use the entire acreage.

At a packed community meeting Monday evening, landscape architect Thomas Woltz revealed an update on the master plan proposal. It shows miles of new running and biking trails traversing the entire park, including a network of new mountain bike trails.

“These are the dedicated mountain bike trails, 8.5 miles of mountain bike trials,” Woltz told the crowd.

He said there would also be 17 miles of paved trails for both bikers and people on foot that would cross over-top Memorial Drive and provide a loop around the perimeter of the park. Woltz told us the master plan calls for more than doubling the amount of trails to more than 50 miles.

“So, carefully designed, I think people can avoid each other,” Woltz told News 88.7. “They won’t be running into each other.”

None of this will happen quickly; it’s a 20-year plan with approval needed by Houston’s city council. The hundreds of millions it is likely to cost will have to come from both public and private sources.