Memorial Park Conservancy

Ecological Conversion in Memorial Park’s Old Archery Range

Forest restoration requires patience and meticulous data-driven planning to be successful. The Society for Ecological Restoration International defines ecological restoration as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Think of an ecosystem as a dynamic game of balance and adjustment – all ecosystems, from global ecosystems down to the microecologies, persistently try to correct themselves.

MPC is responsible for ecological restoration projects around the Park, addressing hundreds of acres each year.  A current example of this ecological restoration work is the 30-acre portion of Memorial Park adjacent to IH-610 and Woodway, referred to as Old Archery Range (OAR). The OAR is a key location where many kayakers and canoeists access the Buffalo Bayou Paddle Trail.  During the Park’s master planning process, studies showed this area to be nearly 90% invasive species.  A plan was developed to return the forest to its most resilient state possible.

The OAR’s ‘persistent ecology’ displays the tendencies of a riparian forest – meaning this is what the area naturally seeks to be.  This is MPC’s guidepost for restoration efforts – what is the best and most effective way to turn OAR from an area overrun with invasive species to a thriving native riparian forest?

The Conservancy has put into motion a proactive conservation plan to restore this fragile ecology. In the past year alone, the Conservancy performed a comprehensive forest inventory, a vegetation survey, and analyzed insect and animal activity, allowing MPC to direct specific treatments to where they were most needed and avoid areas where they would be ineffective. This was followed by large-scale invasive plant treatment with a goal to contain invasive plant community over time to less than 10% the total plant population.

This was followed by the most dramatic visual change to OAR: hazard tree removal. This effort dramatically reduced the number of standing trees that pose an imminent threat to park users or park ecology. Dead trees that do not pose a threat are left to serve as habitat enhancement for woodpeckers, birds and other fauna. This effort was aided by a ‘de-thicketization” process to reduce ground brush, vines and others debris which provide hazardous fuel in the event of a wildfire.  This process also serves to keep the more aggressive invasive species in check.

Last in this process is replanting. The process is jumpstarted by planting a pallet of native or appropriate naturalized plant species to assist with reestablishing a plant understory.  This will offset any erosion issues that could have been instigated by tree and plant removal, and will lead to the creation of a more desirable forest structure.

This cycle will be repeated often in OAR, and in other areas of the Park that are undergoing ecological restoration.  Throughout the process, MPC practices adaptive natural resource management techniques – consistently analyzing forest health and adjusting strategies as necessary to ensure creation of a resilient urban forest underpinned by the best possible use of resources and data collection as possible.