Southern Agenda

Paw Patrol

Visitors to Houston’s Memorial Park can now walk freely over the six-lane highway that bisects it, thanks to an expansive new land bridge and a hundred-acre prairie conceived by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. The project is part of a visionary master plan for the city’s largest urban park, with the goals of reconnecting the divided land, providing safe passage for pedestrians and wildlife, and restoring ancient ecologies through native Gulf Coast prairie grass and tree plantings. Every day, more than fifty-five thousand cars speed through the tunnels located roughly forty feet below, although the layered plants, soil, and hardscape soften the sound to a whisper. “The project was calibrated to engage the senses,” says Thomas Woltz, owner at Nelson Byrd Woltz. Just before the bridge opened, Woltz visited the site on a quiet morning. “I looked down and saw footprints from animals that were using the land bridge to safely cross traffic, as if it had always been there,” he says. “It hit me with a thrill, the complexity of connectivity that this project created, standing there amid the scampering paw prints.”