The Houston-based Memorial Park Conservancy has announced a $70 million pledge from philanthropists Rich and Nancy Kinder and the Kinder Foundation for the restoration of Memorial Park, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The gift will enable the conservancy to complete its priority projects as well as a "land bridge" over the city's Memorial Drive within a decade. In addition to connecting the long-divided north and south sectors of the park, the bridge, which could be finished in as little as five years, will improve the city's flood resilience with fifty acres of new prairie habitat and drainage infrastructure.
Other priorities to be funded by the gift include completion of the 1,500-acre park's Eastern Glade, which is currently under construction; improving the park's connections to regional hiking and biking trails; the creation of new trails within the park; relocating ball fields and providing them with new and improved facilities; construction of a track at the running center south of Memorial Drive; and development of a grove highlighting remnants of the city's military history.
The Kinders, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2011, have previously given a total of $106 million to other greenspace developments in the region, including Discovery Green, Buffalo Bayou Park, and the ongoing Bayou Greenways 2020 project.
MPC president and CEO Shellye Arnold said the gift positions her organization as a strong candidate for funds from other private donors, as well as a $30 million federal grant that would help facilitate physical links to the park, which she noted is still "an island in a growing sea of hike and bike trails across Houston."