The centennial anniversary of Memorial Park occurs this year, and the Memorial Park Conservancy—which maintains and operates 1,100 of the park’s 1,500 acres—will celebrate by hosting a free picnic on March 9 and making progress on various park upgrades throughout 2024.

What to expect

The family-friendly event will feature picnic activities, live music and entertainment, including an appearance by Houston Astros’ mascot, Orbit, according to a Feb. 14 news release. The event will also include food, drinks and activities for kids, such as face painting, arts and crafts, and a magic show.

The picnic will take place at 301 North Picnic Lane, Houston from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

The past

Memorial Park was established in 1924 and served as the grounds for World War I training camp, Camp Logan. It's the only remaining WWI training camp site in the U.S. and is archaeologically protected as such, according to the release.

The present

Today, the park is almost twice the size of New York’s Central Park and annually welcomes over 4 million visitors from 170 ZIP codes across the region, said Shellye Arnold, president and CEO of the Memorial Park Conservancy.

To increase the historic park’s offerings, Arnold said the conservancy partnered with Uptown Houston, Houston's Parks and Recreation Department, and the Kinder Foundation to put together a 10-year plan project in 2018.

Set to deliver more than $200 million in park improvements by 2028, four of the plan’s projects have already been completed, including the running complex, which was completed in November.

Due to Houston’s continued development over the past 100 years, Memorial Park has been divided by roads, train tracks, ball fields and parking lots, Arnold said. The Park’s Master Plan and 10-year plan are the Conservancy’s and its partners' efforts to stitch the park back together.

But Arnold said the concept of connection is multi-layered. Beyond the physical, Arnold said there’s a “poetic” sense of connection between people and nature that is “spiritually-moving.”

The future

An upcoming project from the plan is a cafe by the timing track structure that’s set to open this spring or summer, Arnold said.

Additionally, design work begins this spring on a 100-acre Memorial Groves greenspace project at the park, set to be delivered in 2026.

The greenspace will recognize the 110 African American Buffalo Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion and 24th Infantry Regiment—19 of who were wrongly executed after being charged with mutiny in connection with a racially-charged riot that occurred during the 1917 Camp Logan rebellion, Arnold said.

According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, these soldiers were exonerated of those charges by the U.S. Army on Nov. 13, 2023. This month, Houston Mayor John Whitmire declared Feb. 20 Camp Logan Day in honor of these soldier’s legacy during a ceremony at City Hall.

Other upcoming projects will create connections between nearby communities and Memorial Park and continue to stitch the community together, Arnold said. They include:
  • An $18.5 million west connector to the park under Loop 610 West near Woodway Drive. Set for completion by 2026-27, this project will put a bridge over Buffalo Bayou that allows visitors to go to Uptown Houston Park.
  • An I-10 connector, a southern trail connector and another bridge over Memorial Drive near Crestwood Drive, set to be completed before 2028.