Unlike traditional cemeteries memorial parks feature dignified sculptured bronze markers that lie flat on landscaped plots. This provides visitors with an atmosphere of natural beauty, peace for quiet meditation and respect to the memory of their loved ones.
A new book chronicles how Houston’s Memorial Park became the city’s green heart.
The History of Memorial Park
Today, Memorial Park is a recreational outdoor gem that’s enjoyed by thousands of Houstonians daily. It’s home to miles of multi-use trails, a picnic loop where rodeoHouston trail riders huddle, softball fields and more. But not so long ago, the park was the site of a dark chapter in our country’s history that began in 1917.
It’s a history that’s now being brought to light thanks to a local group. The Houston Branch NAACP is partnering with South Texas College of Law to demand clemency for members of the all-black 3rd Battalion, 24th United States Infantry Regiment, who were the cause of the Camp Logan riot and mutiny that took place in August of that year.
Although there are no markers to mark burial sites within the park, it is likely that graveyards once existed on the land that is now Memorial Park. A geophysical investigation performed by IUP Archeological Services indicates the presence of numerous sites with the potential for burial.
The Park’s Design
The June 5 Memorial Park is one of Houston’s most important green spaces. It is larger than Chicago’s Lincoln Park, St. Louis’ Forest Park and New York City’s Central Park. It’s also been a playground for the rich and famous, with Johnny Weissmuller and Bob Hope among the professional golfers who plied its 18-hole course.
The memorial’s design honors the lives lost to the AIDS epidemic and unites nature, community, activism and art. It celebrates the legacy of those who worked to fight and overcome the crisis, as well as those still struggling today.
The project incorporates innovative construction techniques that highlight the natural qualities of building materials. For example, black and gray granites are finished in a high polish, a rough cut, and exposed aggregate, a process that reveals the variety of stone structure usually left hidden beneath the surface. It also includes natural bronze metal screens that evoke the spirit of the disease-fighting community.
The Park’s Amenities
As the name suggests, memorial parks offer more than a final resting place. They foster community and promote healing for those who have experienced loss. By offering a variety of events and activities, families can connect with each other and share their stories.
This provides comfort and support, allowing individuals to move through their grief at a pace that is right for them. Furthermore, memorial parks also offer a space for families to celebrate their loved ones and commemorate their lives.
The Park is home to a gymnasium and fitness room; police activities league; community meeting rooms; 2 youth baseball fields; 3 softball infields; a soccer field; children’s playground; tennis courts; an off-leash dog run; a skatepark and more. A large majority of these amenities are free or offered at a low cost to the residents of Sheepshead Bay and its surrounding communities.
The Park’s Programming
Memorial Park is home to a community center and meeting rooms; police activities league; children’s playground; tennis courts; baseball, soccer and softball infields; sand volleyball courts; an off-leash dog park; a skatepark called The Cove; and over 63 off-street parking spaces. Memorial Park also features the NYC AIDS Memorial, honoring the more than 100,000 New Yorkers who died from AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
A 2.3-mile handicap accessible pedestrian-bicycle trail loop surrounded by lush green lawns is the perfect place for picnicking and family reunions. Memorial Park is also home to one of the Village’s most fitting September 11th memorials, along with a Veterans Memorial honoring all Village residents who served in the U.S. military.
Unlike the competing headstones in traditional cemeteries, Memorial Park uses dignified sculptured bronze markers lying flat on landscaped plots for those who wish to memorialize loved ones. Donors can also purchase a brick paver for installation in the donor recognition plaza. Brick orders are only accepted twice a year: before Veterans Day and Memorial Day.