Chop Talk

Houston remains embroiled in what to do about Memorial Park

A comprehensive plan for the park will also prevent problematic items like the commuter bike trail, which even bikers hate. Off-road bikers don't like it because it's too much like a road. And on-road bikers don't like it because it's a boring, straight line unlike the curvy roads in the picnic loop. After the first trail section massacred trees, the conservancy helped redesign the remaining portion. Now it will weave around trees instead of plowing them down. The yellow center stripe and the five-foot retaining walls were removed. The walls were intended to protect the trees, but in order to build them, the Department of Transportation had to cut down trees. "It's much less offensive now," Caudill says. "It disappears into the landscape."

And the DOT planted 253 young trees along the path to compensate for the old trees it killed. "In 30 years they'll look real nice," Caudill says. "I will be in a nursing home, but someone else will enjoy them."


Conservancy chairman Claire Caudill wants the park 
to be concrete-free.
Daniel Kramer
Conservancy chairman Claire Caudill wants the park to be concrete-free.
Jorge Figueroa says the master plan will destroy the 
park.
Daniel Kramer
Jorge Figueroa says the master plan will destroy the park.

At 5:30 a.m. Jack Walston jumps out of his yellow Hummer and starts shouting. The former Navy SEAL conducts early-morning physical fitness classes. He spends an hour yelling at people in the dark, criticizing half-assed jumping jacks. If he doesn't hear everyone in the group counting, he makes them all start back at zero. About 20 people are lying on yoga mats doing crunches. These are people who never refused to dress out for gym class.

It's 90 degrees and the sun isn't up yet. The air is thick and wet. He makes them run laps.

When asked what he thinks about the master plan, he says he didn't realize one was in the works.

"I'm sure nine-tenths of the city has no idea what's going on," he says. "I had no idea, and I'm out here every morning."

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