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Paying to park at Memorial Park

Let the pearl-clutching begin!

A quarter of the parking spaces at Memorial Park will be metered starting later this year, as the city and the park’s nonprofit operators scrape together dollars for maintenance amid an ambitious renovation.

Visitors who park near the golf clubhouse, the tennis center, the gymanisum and pool, and the new parking lots being completed near the renovated Eastern Glades area will need to pay $1 per three hours of parking.

The Memorial Park Conservancy expects the new meters to net $135,000 in the fiscal year that starts July 1, rising to $375,000 annually in about four years; both figures account for paying off the up-front cost of the meters.

Shellye Arnold, president of the nonprofit Memorial Park Conservancy that took over the park’s operations and began fundraising to implement a new master plan three years ago, said declining funding for public spaces has made parking revenues a key revenue source for parks across the country. It costs about $2 million a year to run Memorial Park, she said.

“There are two realities that make Memorial Park different than most other parks in Houston in regard to the needs of care and maintenance. One is its sheer size; at 1,500 acres, it’s nearly twice the size of (New York’s) Central Park,” she said. “Also, what we heard in the master planning was that Houstonians don’t want to commercialize this park. When you do that, it limits your ability to collect concessions and revenues to operate.”

In all, 572 of the nearly 2,250 spaces at the park will be metered. About 60 percent of the parking spots north of Memorial Drive will remain free; all the spots south of it will.

A buck for three hours, and 75% of the spaces will remain free. Seems like no big deal to me, but of course it’s got a certain former Mayoral candidate all indignant. Because free parking in Houston is our God-given Constitutional right, or something like that. This is a good idea, both as a funding source for the Conservancy, and also as a way to ensure that parking spaces open up on a regular basis. Honestly, they could have charged more – like, a buck for two hours, or two dollars for three hours – and it would still be a good deal. Complain if you want, but parking there, like parking downtown, is a scarce resource, and putting a (very modest) price on it just makes sense.

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12 Comments

  1. Steve Houston says:

    If the park costs 2 million bucks a year to maintain, just make all the parking paid to more fully cover that cost moving forward. Then, as people become accustomed to the idea, raise the rates according to what the market will bear. Isn’t that the conservative approach, to let people choose with their wallets?

  2. TexMex Dude says:

    I wonder how you would have reacted if this was done under a conservative major, Kuffner?

  3. TexMex Dude says:

    *mayor.

  4. TexMex Dude says:

    Maybe if we knew where those “two million” for maintenance went (as well as how wisely they are spent, then I would MAYBE rest my case. Just MAYBE.

  5. Steve Houston says:

    Tex, the Parks department will likely tell you where they’ve budgeted the funds if you file a request for the information.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street

    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat

    If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat

    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

    Taxman!

    Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman”

  7. TexMex Dude says:

    Oh my! Why didn’t I THINK of that?

  8. voter_worker says:

    Yeah, life is so much simpler when you don’t any infrastructure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgWWXSEw0Dc

  9. TexMex Dude, I would react the same way because I believe the idea that parking always has to be free is ridiculous and leads to all kinds of bad land management decisions. The conservative Mayoral wannabe who lost in the 2015 runoff is currently freaking out about this on his website, in case you’re curious.

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    Kuff,

    My only critique of adding parking meters is the time allotted. If you force people to feed a meter every 3 hours, you are just creating anxiety for park goers, that constant worry, the checking of the watch, doing mental computations of exactly how long it will take to return to the car to feed the meter from wherever you are in the park.

    I do see Bill King’s point that this is more ‘nickel and diming,’ but if you give the option for motorists to pay for an 8 hour block of time, you’d at least allow park goers to enjoy the park without the constant sword of Damocles of meter maids over their heads.

    The other basic point he has is also valid. Most of the money collected, including parking fines, will be sunk back into enforcement, not into park maintenance. Of the remainder that is profit, will this be money spent on the park that is over and above what is currently being spent, or will the expenditure level stay the same, with the city using the parking revenue as an excuse to fund other projects?

    As far as taxation goes, this seems one of the more fair methods…..a user tax. Are you morally outraged at paying to park at Memorial Park? Don’t go.

  11. Manny Barrera says:

    Why do people think Republicans are the conservatives? Look at what they do every time they are in control in Washington, increase the debt.

    The State of Texas plays smoke and mirrors, they don’t raise taxes they make sure that they pass it on to the schools, and local governments do it so that we can have a decent quality of life.

    One has to look no further than Oklahoma and Kansas to get an idea how unhinged the Republicans are. But for their racism they would not exist as a party, that is the glue that binds them together. Like all rules there are exceptions.

    Why would anyone want to spend 8 hours in Memorial Park, the area where the meters will be installed? There may be legitimate reasons, but I don’t know.

    I doubt that anyone could even remember the last time a Republican Mayor was elected.

  12. Manny Barrera says:

    Kathy Whitmire a Democrat has probably been the most fiscally conservative in recent history.