Fresh off the debut of the incredible new Eastern Glades—seriously, you need to make the trek right now; it's like a brand new park—The Memorial Park Conservancy is now embarking on its most epic undertaking yet, the construction of its highly anticipated $70 million Land Bridge and Prairie project, which is one of the biggest park projects in the entire nation.
The nearly 100-acre project will connect parkland over Memorial Drive, expanding the park's existing trail systems, creating 40 acres of much needed coastal-prairie land to help with stormwater management while sending traffic shooting through two tunnels as park goers and our beloved local wildlife are able to move about freely atop the road on new green mounds—you'll apparently even be able to see the downtown and uptown skylines up top.
The Land Bridge is slated for completion in late 2022.
With that in mind, we are talking about a couple years of construction or so. Even if you head to the park right now, you'll notice areas around the Picnic Loop are already closed off, including the volleyball courts (the ball fields have also been off limits since earlier this year ... thanks, Covid-19). Because we know how exasperating it can be to see those fences and orange cones come out, we went ahead and asked the Conservancy what all we can expect until 2022.
Here're three things to keep in mind.
Traffic will be impacted by construction, but not too much.
Traffic on Memorial Drive will go down from three lanes to two each way beginning next month through fall 2021 while the tunnel arch structures are put in place south of Memorial Drive and other road work is completed. On the upside, the Conservancy's construction plan was designed to minimize traffic disruption as much as possible—plus, it seems like Covid-19 itself has already minimized daily commuter traffic somewhat as well.
The Picnic Loop will remain accessible.
The Picnic Loop will remain accessible to park users throughout construction, but later in 2021, you can expect the entrance at the corner of North Picnic Lane and Memorial Drive to close. The main entrance to Picnic Loop on Memorial Drive will reopen at this time and will be the only way to access Picnic Loop by car. Your volleyball and baseball days on this side of the park are over, though. But that's okay.
A new facility for volleyball and more sports is opening in the park next month.
Four new volleyball courts will be open in September in the new Sports Complex, located on the north side of the Seymour Lieberman Trail along West Memorial Loop Drive (across from the Tennis Center). The Sports Complex also includes a new multi-use sports field for rugby, lacrosse, soccer, and other field sports; two new ballfields; and new restrooms. Sadly the ball fields won’t open immediately due to Covid-19—the park still has safety measures in place and encourages all visitors to mask up and practice social distancing while heading out to visit.
There are even more new park features forthcoming as part of the park's ten year Master Plan—a running center, expanded/upgraded trail systems, and more are expected to wrap up by 2024, the 100th anniversary of the park's founding. Head to memorialparkconservancy.org for more info.