Published Oct 12, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta
In a little more than a decade, Houston has transformed some of its most recognizable green spaces into world-class parks, helping advance a new reputation for the city as an outdoor mecca. From the redevelopment of the 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park just west of the Downtown skyline to the creation of the wildly popular Discovery Green that now anchors the convention district, the Bayou City has delivered a series of new quality of life amenities to residents. And it’s far from over.
In July, a new, 100-acre section of Memorial Park debuted, setting the tone for the park’s ambitious 10-year master plan. The $35 million phase one of the Clay Family Eastern Glades is the first major project of the plan and includes new trails, picnic areas, native wetlands, a 5-acre lake, savanna, food truck court and more. The beautifully landscaped and reimagined area is on the east end of the park.
“The [Memorial Park] Conservancy has done impressive work restoring nearly 40 acres of degraded habitat in Eastern Glades so far and planting more than 150 native species to help promote and sustain wildlife,” said Nancy Kinder, president and CEO of the Kinder Foundation and a pivotal park partner, in a statement. “Restoring the landscape not only creates wonderful spaces for people to enjoy nature, but also provides important benefits for the overall ecology of the Park and plays an integral role in stormwater management.”
In September, another Houston green space opened to the public—this one decades in the making. Advocates have long sought to establish a botanic garden in the city that would help educate residents and visitors on the flora of this region and other parts of the world and create a verdant urban refuge in the heart of the city. The transformation of a former golf course in Houston’s East End began in 2018 and now the first phase of the 132-acre Houston Botanic Garden is welcoming visitors.
More than 350 different plant varieties from around the world combine to create the attraction’s Global Collection Garden, which includes everything from a tropical rainforest to an arid desert.
“Adding a world-class botanic garden to enhance the breadth and depth of Houston’s cultural offerings has been a long time in the making,” said Claudia Gee Vassar, president of the Houston Botanic Garden. “We believe the benefits of an extensive outdoor museum like the Houston Botanic Garden will be especially desirable at a time when so many are looking to engage with and be inspired by nature.”
Many are surprised to learn that Houston is one of America’s greenest cities. The metro area boasts 500 miles of interconnected bikeways, 380 developed city parks and 170 open spaces. And we continue to build on that reputation. Through the investments of Houston’s top corporate and civic leaders, by the end of this year, more than 3,000 acres of unused land will have been converted to public park space in just the last few years.
Learn more about Houston’s parks and green spaces.