Land Bridge & Prairie Restoration Project
Located in the heart of Memorial Park, the Land Bridge and Prairie Restoration Project is a key component of the Master Plan which the Ten-Year Plan will deliver by 2022. The Land Bridge includes two connections over Memorial Drive that reunite the north and south sides of the Park. This “new” parkland will symbolize the triumph of “green” over “gray”, healing the divide cut by Memorial Drive through the middle of this treasured urban wilderness park half a century ago.
The Prairie Restoration, which adjoins the Land Bridge, re-introduces endangered native Gulf Coast prairie and additional wetlands to areas north and south of Memorial Drive. A new network of trails will provide safe crossing for people and wildlife. Both prairie and wetlands serve important habitat and stormwater management functions and are a key part of the Park’s ecological restoration to ensure resiliency.
Together, the Land Bridge and Prairie will distinguish Memorial Park and Houston, serving as an icon to all of a greener and more resilient future. Completion is projected for late 2022. Memorial Drive will remain open throughout the duration of the project.
Frequently asked questions about the Land Bridge and Prairie:
What is this project?
Coming in 2022, a Land Bridge over Memorial Drive will reunite the north and south sides of the Park to provide safe crossing for people and wildlife as well as new recreation opportunities. A restored network of native prairie and savanna will promote regional biodiversity and act as a green sponge, helping to absorb and clean storm water. Swaths of greenspace on top of the Bridge will provide places to relax and enjoy new vistas of the Park and City beyond, and will also serve as a hub for socializing and events. This project aligns with our mission to preserve, restore, and enhance Memorial Park for the enjoyment of all Houstonians, today and tomorrow.
When will this project be undertaken?
We will begin construction in the summer of 2020 and conclude late 2022.
What will the Land Bridge and Prairie accomplish?
- SAFETY AND CONNECTIVITY FOR PARK USERS
Safety is one of our paramount objectives. Over 3,000 Houstonians participated in the development of the Memorial Park Master Plan, and one of the most common requests was safer routes through the Park especially related to crossing Memorial Drive’s six lanes. This project will enable safe passage traversing Memorial Drive for every type of Park user, from two legs to four.
- CONNECTIVITY TO OTHER PARKS AND GREENSPACES
This project in the heart of Memorial Park will expand the existing network of trail systems and provide greater connectivity within the Park as a whole. Together with multi-use trails currently in the planning stages, it will also provide the long-sought connections through Memorial Park to other trail networks, greenspaces, and parks within the Houston area.
- WILDLIFE CORRIDORS
During the master planning process, a panel of ecological scientists provided input to help improve and sustain wildlife health and safety in the Park. The Land Bridge and Prairie will provide two new corridors for wildlife to safely cross Memorial Drive. The Land Bridge will provide connectivity for wildlife over Memorial Drive, and a stream corridor that will meander through the Prairie will create a safe crossing under Memorial Drive. Together, these new corridors will provide much-needed wildlife connectivity within Houston’s largest urban wilderness park.
- STORM WATER MANAGEMENT AND CLEANER WATER
During heavy rain events, millions of gallons of water sheet flow through Memorial Park to Buffalo Bayou. This project will establish extensive native prairie areas and wetlands within a large watershed that extends both north and south of the future Land Bridge. Tallgrass coastal prairie, a part of this region’s native ecology, is more effective at slowing, absorbing and cleansing storm water than the roads, parking lots, ball fields, and current ecology that exists in this area today. The prairie and constructed wetlands will help to absorb and purify the storm water flowing through the Park and will also reduce the amount of chemicals entering Buffalo Bayou.
- CREATES AN EXCITING DESTINATION FOR VISITORS
The Land Bridge and associated prairie system will offer a varied and enjoyable trail experience that enhances the urban wilderness character of the Park while providing additional opportunities for active and passive recreation. Families, students, nature enthusiasts, and others can gather to watch wildlife or learn more about native ecologies. Walkers can stroll on a variety of paths, and others can join for fun and exciting events on the top of the Bridge. Visible from the air, and stretching over 100 acres, the project will be a landmark for Houston.
- FULFILLS CITY COUNCIL AND MAYORAL MANDATE
In 2015, Houston City Council unanimously approved the Memorial Park Master Plan. Over 3,000 Houstonians and 75 scientists and other experts – including ecologists and storm water management experts – informed this Plan. The Land Bridge and Prairie were key components of the Memorial Park Master Plan, which will be transformational for Memorial Park and is garnering national acclaim for Houston
- SAFETY AND CONNECTIVITY FOR PARK USERS
How will traffic be impacted during construction?
Memorial Drive will remain open during construction. Within the project area, traffic will be reduced from three lanes to two each way while a new section of Memorial Drive and the arch structures for the Land Bridge are completed directly south of the operating lanes. All lanes will reopen once construction is complete.
Will my commute along Memorial Drive be stalled by construction?
We commissioned a traffic study to assess potential impact to peak hour commute times through the Park during construction of the project. The data and modeling show no meaningful change to the estimated average driving time along Memorial Drive. This is because traffic flow through the Park is constrained during peak commute times at the I-610 intersections on the west side of the Park and the Westcott and Memorial intersection to the east. The lane reduction within the project area will not affect either of those conditions.
Will Memorial Drive be lowered?
No, Memorial Drive will remain at the same level. The arch structures for the Land Bridge will be built over the new section of Memorial Drive.
How will the existing east-west commuter trail be modified by the project?
The project will provide a dedicated multi-use trail along the south side of the Land Bridge between Picnic Loop and the Cullen Running Trails Center. A temporary multi-use trail will be in place during construction to provide an uninterrupted path around the construction areas.
How will the Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail be modified by the project?
A new segment of the Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail, including new pedestrian lighting, will skirt the north edge of the Land Bridge and will be constructed prior to any construction impacts to the existing trail. Our plan is to move the trail away from the traffic flow on Memorial Drive and create some separation between trail users and automobile traffic. We believe this will improve safety and provide a better Park experience. The Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail will still be 3.0 miles long.
What does this project mean for the south side trail system in the Park?
A new multi-use trail for people of all abilities will be incorporated along the south side of the Prairie and will connect to the adjacent existing south-side natural trail system. Ultimately, it will also connect to a future North/South Hike-and-Bike Trail that will be developed along the CenterPoint easement.