A brisk and clear day, perfect to turn over dirt in the start of a 10-million dollar campaign for improvements at Memorial Park. Phase-1 will be the construction of the bridge. Among those handling the shiny shovels... Houston Parks and Recreation, the Memorial Park Campaign, members of Houston City Council and Mayor Bill White.
"This particular project is gonna be a major addition to the usefulness of the park for the public in a way that also continues to preserve and create a constituency for preserving the amenities and the natural nature of this great park."
Twice as large as Central Park in New York, Memorial Park is valued at a billion dollars. Councilmember Pam Holm says the bridge will enhance its value even more.
"This will not only be a living bridge which will be a great amenity and a beautiful asset, it's gonna help mobility for the city and the most important thing that makes it so wonderful, is the model it is of a private public partnership."
Joe Turner is director of Houston Parks and Recreation.
"This bridge, above and beyond tying the park pieces together, so you don't have to cross traffic, it's just gonna be a signature piece for the city."
Hernandez: "I guess we can't stress enough, the public-private partnership that makesÎ¾ this happen?"
Turner: "It's the best way to do business ."
Mindy Hildebrand chairs the Memorial Park Capital Campaign. She's amazed at the overwhelming support.
"This is a ten million dollar campaign. The city has committed three million dollars, and the Conservancy is raising seven. So far to date, total, between public and private, we've raised almost 6.2 as of this morning. It's very exciting."
Hernandez: "With the money being raised, that's what's gonna facilitate its completion before the end of the year?"
Hildebrand: "Well the bridge is paid for. That money is in the bank. The bridge is a four million dollar project. So, we've raised 6.2. With the remaining two million that we have left, we're going to begin the renovations of the tennis plaza, and we'll continue to fund-raise for the running center, which is a three million dollar project, and then the two miles of trails on the north side are another two million dollars."
Landscape architect Paul Weathers came up with the winning design.
"Because of the fact that the road is going under the railroad tracks, and you have all the earth up, it made a lot of sense to really connect to the earth, and you have all the trees of the north side, all the woods around, it justÎ¾ made sense to make it earth like."
Hernandez: "So, what does it mean to you to have your contribution to something that's gonna be here for years to come?"
Weathers: "To take ideas and see them become reality, and to become real objects, that's very gratifying."
The bridge is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.
For more information,Î¾visit the Memorial Park ConservatoryÎ¾web page.
From left to right: Capital Campaign Chairman, Mindy Hildebrand; The Honorable Bill White, Mayor; Councilmember Pam Holm; Councilmember Sue Lovell; Councilmember Toni Lawrence; Director of Houston Parks and Recreation, Joe Turner.