Houston is beginning to get serious about shaping up and improving it’s green space. For a city our size, I can’t think of a more important project. Okay, of course I can think of many important projects, but this is one we can get excited about. If you haven’t read about this yet in the Houston Chronicle (featured July 18), then let me give you the breakdown.
Houston business groups — The Greater Houston Partnership and the Quality of Life Coalition — are joining together to jump start an initiative that will join together 10 of Harris County’s largest bayous and create a massive system of “linear” parks.
The parks initiative is being called the Bayou Greenways Initiative and would amount to 250 miles of new parks, new and upgraded trails, and even canoe trails along the bayou system that controls the city’s floodwaters. The parks would additionally provide more space to double as water retention areas and the preservation/creation of wetlands.
The price tag for this project was listed in very large general terms of around $255 million, and it was unspecified exactly how funds would be raised to pay for this large initiative. On the plus side, the bayous are already in place and many parks can be found along their banks. Land that would need to be purchased along the bayous for new trails and parks is often already owned by government entities and private properties are vacant land because of the flood restrictions in place on building on these properties.
The project is seen to include the cooperation and employment of many different groups throughout the area including city, county, state and federal agencies; nonprofits; municipal utility districts; Tax-Increment Reinvestment Zones; neighborhood groups; private developers; and private philanthropists.
How soon can we expect this to come about? Well the estimate is around 15 years as money is gathered incrementally. However, the groups would like to get off to a fast start and plan to meet with Houston’s congressional delegation to put the wheels in motion. Initial phases of the plan are already underway with Brays Bayou Greenway, Cypress Creek Greenway, and Halls Bayou, and Katie Prarie Conservancy.
Many will and are saying this is too much for the tax payer to take on, that we the people will have to foot the bill for the goals of wealthy business owners. I’m not a fan for any extra government taxation, but I am a fan of creating a more livable and enjoyable city that preserves it’s natural environments. My in-laws are all from the Austin area, and I have to say a major draw for me there, is the miles and miles of greenbelt that span the city provided swimming, rock climbing, biking and hiking to everyone within minutes from anywhere. The idea of a linear park system here in Harris County is appealing, and I look forward to hearing more. I’d love to hear your feedback on this issue. What do you think? Do you disagree with the idea or would it be something you look forward to? All comments are welcome.
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