Park Spotlight: Clay Family Eastern Glades at Memorial Park

Looking over Hines Lake toward Central Lawn | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

Find your space to unwind in the shade of native trees and on lush lakeside lawns at the Clay Family Eastern Glades at Memorial Park.

After opening in Memorial Park in July 2020, the expansive Clay Family Eastern Glades grants visitors a chance to revel in relaxation, offering moments to sprawl out on a cushy lawn, book in hand, while butterflies flitter nearby; spend a lakeside stroll spotting surfacing turtles, sizeable tadpoles and the darting fish underneath the winding boardwalk; and taking a pause among towering pine-hardwood trees to take in the scattered scenery and loud noises of small creatures.

The first major project of a ten-year Memorial Park Master Plan, Eastern Glades introduces another destination park space to the Houston landscape, providing a vast area for visitors to find ways to unwind and reclaim a piece of mind among lively wildlife, native wetlands and miles of accessible trails.

Check out our Park Spotlight below for all the details, then head over to Eastern Glades for some outdoor R&R.

Clay Family Eastern Glades in Memorial Park | Courtesy of Memorial Park Conservancy

Park Space for Everyone

What once was an inaccessible, swampy thicket of distressed parkland has been revitalized into an expansive stunner of a park that merges cultural history and natural beauty for a passive park-going experience.

The outer loop running trail and park roads have been moved eastward for the spacious Clay Family Eastern Glades, which features the plush 5.5-acre Central Lawn, glittering Hines Lake, and immersive surrounding natural wetlands, as well as 2.5 miles of new boardwalks and accessible walking trails. Space is key to the design of Eastern Glades, providing for moments of privacy, self-reflection, and relaxation while wildlife thrums around visitors.

Eastern Glades also nods to the history of the area, which hosted Camp Logan, a World War I military training site for which Memorial Park is named. The former entrance that led thousands of troops into Camp Logan (and had since disappeared into overgrowth) has been re-established with an unbroken view from the neighboring Blossom Street through to the west side wetlands that stand over 1,500 feet away.

Designated picnic areas dot the southern side of the park, while multiple pavilions provide an opportunity to host groups and gatherings. The Live Oak Court, near the north end of the park, is primed to feature food trucks and social events under dangling lights just mere steps from the nearby lakefront.

The northwest area of Central Lawn at Clay Family Eastern Glades | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

Central Lawn at Clay Family Eastern Glades

From the parking lot, guests will encounter one of Eastern Glades‘ defining features in the Central Lawn. The oval-shaped grounds are carpeted by a thick, lush grass peppered with pocket savannas that help give the area form while also serving as native landscaping for visitors and wildlife alike.

The cushy lawn is ideal for the park-goer in search of a shady, secluded spot to rest and relax. Here, the savannas help the meandering areas of the lawn feel private, offering visitors a chance to find their own nook without needing to be on top of other park guests.

Throughout this area, visitors will find influences of 1930s architecture alongside an inscribed concrete ribbon that features personal quotes from more than 50 Houstonians describing what Memorial Park means to them—curated by Houston’s 2020 Youth Poet Laureate, Madison Petaway.

Concrete benches hug the curve on the western side of the Oval Promenade, offering visitors a chance to relax and catch spectacular views of sunsets across Hines Lake.

Looking across Hines Lake toward Central Lawn at Clay Family Eastern Glades | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

Hines Lake at Clay Family Eastern Glades

The glittering jewel of the Eastern Glades is Hines Lake, a 5.5-acre area that creates a new wildlife habitat for turtles, fish, frogs and water birds, while also serving as a stunning backdrop to the surrounding pavilions and park spaces.

Bookended by the North and South Lakeside Pavilions, Hines Lake is outlined with boardwalks and walking paths that provide places for rest, outside the circulation of other visitors, to take in far-reaching views of the park. More than just a cosmetic feature, the lake also serves functional purposes in improving the water quality for wildlife through oxygenation, as well as irrigating surrounding trees in times of drought.

Trails curl around the south end of Hines Lake before splitting into two paths, bringing guests into the fringe of surrounding wetlands or onto boardwalks that take visitors over the water’s edge for a moment of reflection.

From here, visitors can continue on the trail into the nearby wetlands that mark the western edge of the Clay Family Eastern Glades at Memorial Park.

A boardwalk area of reflection among Wetlands in Clay Family Eastern Glades | Photo: Justin Jerkins/365Houston

Memorial Park Wetlands at Clay Family Eastern Glades

In the most biodiverse city in the nation, Memorial Park is home to the nation’s largest contiguous forest in an urban environment, though many who live and visit here may never get the chance to explore it.

The wooded trails on the south side of Memorial Park can be popular but tough to navigate for inexperienced park-goers. Eastern Glades seeks to remedy this by providing a boardwalk through natural wetlands and pine-hardwood forest that is more accessible to park patrons, while also granting private spaces to take in the views.

Lined by the purple hues of American beautyberry bushes and native flowers, the boardwalk invites visitors through the park’s wetlands to view the thicket of scattered trees that both rise high above heads and lie along the ground in all directions.

Echoing these fallen drought-ridden trees, the boardwalk features offshoots that jut in different directions, allowing guests to step away from other park-goers and take in the tangled landscape during a private moment. Educational signage changed yearly will help to convey the importance of this area and the state of the surrounding environment.

Tips for Visiting

Come at dusk for stunning sunset views as wildlife pulses all over the park, including a colony of bats that take to Hines Lake.

Dogs are allowed at Eastern Glades, though they are not permitted to enter any of the water features, including the shallow areas of Hines Lake.

Bikes are not allowed on the paths in Eastern Glades, though they can be secured at nearby bike racks.

Clay Family Eastern Glades at Memorial Park

Dusk over Hines Lake at Clay Family Eastern Glades | Courtesy of Memorial Park Conservancy

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A longtime Houstonian, Justin Jerkins keeps an eye out for all sorts of happenings in H-Town, including breweries, sports, concerts, must-see destinations and much more while serving as Editor-in-Chief of 365 Things to Do in Houston.