Mr. Speaker, lately Houston has become synonymous with flooding, but seven years ago a devastating drought caused our beloved Memorial Park to lose nearly 80 percent of its thousands of trees. Maybe you’ve never heard of Memorial Park. 

It is Houston’s largest public space; its haven in the heart of Houston—and almost double the size of New York’s Central Park. Daily commuters drive through winding, wooded roads, free of billboards and businesses, as they head to work. 

The park’s 600-acre urban wilderness is one of the largest centrally located urban forests in the country. Memorial Park is also remarkable because it is home to Camp Logan, the only former World War I training camp site in the United States that is not completely developed. 

The 2011 drought underscored the need to fast-track Memorial Park’s Master Plan to create the best urban park in America. This month Houston’s Kinder Foundation granted $70 million to this effort and energized the park’s public and private partners to invest up to $205 million more.

These efforts will take the Master Plan from proposal to reality in just 10 years and enhance and protect Memorial Park for today and for generations to come. The restoration will be directed by the Memorial Park Conservancy, Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and Uptown Development Authority.

These partners have set new standards in green space planning and public- private funding partnerships. Kinder Foundation’s inspiring public-private partnerships have changed Houston’s color palette from gray to green. 

Some of their landmark successes include Discovery Green, Buffalo Bayou Park, and Bayou Greenways 2020. Their legacy continues with Memorial Park. Kinder Foundation chairman Rich Kinder said Memorial Park will now reach its full potential and include a signature land bridge, a restored prairie ecology, natural storm drainage and retention systems, in addition to adding over 30 miles of trails for hiking, biking, running, and equestrian use. 

Many joggers, runners and walkers hit the park’s trail daily to make the nearly three-mile loop. I know this park well, Mr. Speaker.

In my past life as a criminal court judge, I took to the gravel trail for my daily run, as later did my kids. I can’t tell you how many miles I’ve run in Memorial Park, but I can tell you it’s no overstatement to say the Kinder’s grant along with the day-to-day work by its partners will save this cherished haven in Houston.

And that’s just the way it is.