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cloud713

Improving the Houston Parks System

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What can we do to improve our parks system? What parks would you say could use renovations, and how would you like for them to be renovated? Where do you see the potential or need for new parks?

i think improving our parks system, paired with a green roof initiative could really change a lot of peoples perceptions about Houston from being a dirty polluted oil dominated city, to an environmentally friendly, beautiful green city.


Here are a few stats for why I think we could stand to work on our parks system.

"In seven of the nation's largest cities, nine out of 10 residents live within a one-half mile walk to a park, according to the report. The seven are New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C."

only 45% of Houstons residents (or half the percentage of the 7 cities listed above) live within walking distance of a park.. thats over 1.2 million people who cannot walk to a park in this city. (the average of the 40 largest cities in the US was 68%.. the highest was San Francisco at a whopping 98% of its population)

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Houston spends $40 per resident on its parks system a year. less than half of the national average ($82). compared to the highest spender (Washington D.C.), who spends $397 a year per resident on its parks, we spend almost 10 times less on our parks.

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We didnt even make the top 10 in any of these "snapshots", covering baseball/softball fields, basketball courts, swimming pools, skate parks, rec centers/senior centers, and dog parks.

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http://www.tpl.org/sites/default/files/cloud.tpl.org/pubs/ccpe-cityparkfacts-2012.pdf

Edited by cloud713

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Surprised it didn't count total acreage. Between Memorial and Hermann, those are both large parks that the city enjoys.

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Surprised it didn't count total acreage. Between Memorial and Hermann, those are both large parks that the city enjoys.

there was a slide for total acres per 1,000 residents. we performed decent in that, at around 23.6 acres of park space per 1,000 people. still not enough to make a name for ourselves as a "park city/garden city/green city/w.e", but that one was one of the few (if not the only one) where Houston performed better than the average of the cities polled.

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EDIT: Geez.. the top three threads in this forum ATM are all posted by me, and all have to do with green space. its as if i were a greeny-environmentalist freak or something.. heh.

Edited by cloud713

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just doing a quick glance over of the city on a map, i dont see any parks near the Villages. thats kind of odd. 

the 215 million dollar Bayou Greenways 2020 project will be a help to improve our parks system, adding 1,500 acres of new park land and 80 additional miles of trails along the bayous. that is a part of the larger/long term Bayou Greenways Initiative. but i think we can do better than turning some floodways into park land (dont get me wrong, its a great use of that un utilized space, and i dig the terrain).. Discovery Green was/is awesome. and the Midtown Superblock Park should be a hit as well. but with so many people coming to this city and given the fact we arent one of the 7 top cities with 9 out of 10 residents within half a mile of a park, i think if we want to improve our image (isnt the mayor trying to do that/wanting Houston to be "greener"?) we are going to have to work twice as hard to accommodate all the new residents while also providing new/better parks for the current residents in areas being ignored.

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there also isnt a park within half a mile of the majority of Post Oak in Uptown, or the area across 610 from uptown.

that just so happens to be a location where i had already thought a park would be ideal. sink 610 during the next rebuild, between Westheimer and San Felipe, and build a deck park over it like Phoenix's. it would serve both the booming Uptown population, and the up and coming areas on the east side of 610, while providing a crucial pedestrian friendly linkage between the two destinations.

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also while were on the topic of deck parks, i had always thought one would go great over a newly submerged 59 through downtown, just north of the GRB CC from Rusk, to Commerce, again, providing a crucial pedestrian friendly linkage, this time between downtown and eado/the east end.

i got a little more detailed on the surroundings with this one, adding in some buildings to create a mixed use development, but was a little less detailed with the park (note, the "Future Expansion" area.. i couldnt decide what amenities to put in the rest of the park.. i was trying to keep it from turning into a larger version of Discovery Green (though that wouldnt necessarily be a bad thing). this could turn the area into a new Garden District or Green District, especially if they kept the green roof tops/terraces in any developments that go up around the area. this one has much more potential to spur new development than the Uptown deck park IMO because there are 8 lots immediately surrounding the park that are either vacant or have run down warehouses on them that could be cleared off for new development. not counting the 4 developments i have drawn in with the park (a condo tower, apartment building, restaurant/bar/club venue, and hotel). Uptown Park is planned to be a 1.2 billion dollar renovation, with 6-7 towers. this park over/around 59 could easily spur over a billion dollars in new development for the city and more importantly that particular area which has been kind of slow to take off. i meant to draw my buildings taller, but as it was only on one sheet of paper it was hard to make that many floors drawn to scale. though i kind of like how it came out with the 14 story, 8 story, and 6 story buildings, all with green rooftop decks and tiered terraces, and now feel anything too tall in the area might throw off the scale of eado/the east end? im a skyscraper enthusiast though so that part of me always wants buildings to be taller, heh..

Red- potential development sites

Blue- drawn in developments included with the park

Yellow-new consolidated parking garages

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Edited by cloud713

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Ok I'm getting a little side tracked turning new park space into green mixed use developments.. i scoured Houston with google maps the other day for legitimate park proposals and was having a hard time finding "dead zones" in between parks since there were so many tiny pocket parks in neighborhoods all around the city.. i kept coming back to building more deck parks (i think the 2 ive proposed are the only ones worth while ATM) over freeways, or converting large swaths of land like Hardy Yards, KBG site, or Astroworld. so here's another green development built around park space. Though I get the feeling this would mainly only get used by the residents/guests/shoppers since the park space is kind of isolated in the development (again, I got carried away after the last park idea spawned a fantasy mixed use district.. Lol). there arent many (if any) residents within walking distance of the Astroworld site, and most people that ride the light rail that far south are only doing so to transfer to their cars and drive home to Pearland. i dont imagine many residents from inside the loop go to Sams Club or would venture all the way to the south end of the line to shop at the retail ive proposed in the development (but maybe im wrong?) I've just been eager for development on the astroworld site like many.

Maybe I should of named this thread something different since I think Houston is doing a pretty good job on park improvements. I guess this is more about making developments and parts of town more green and pedestrian friendly. A mod can change the title if they'd like. Something like "building greener and more pedestrian friendly developments"..? Idk. 

I realize the building heights aren't drawn to scale. The tallest would be like 200 feet tall, at only 10 stories if that were accurate. The series of buildings steps down from the 10 story residential high rise, right next to the light rail station and future METRO site, clockwise to the 8 story mid rise apartments (didn't want the town houses in the back being towered over by anything too tall/invading their privacy), and the 6 story hotel along 610, before finally coming to two opposing crescent buildings, the front building with retail lining both front and back/facing towards the crescent building in the middle which is lined with retail on one side facing in towards the rest of the retail. There would be a large fountain and courtyard area in the central 90* wedge plot behind the retail section, a large garden w/ a gazebo and paths in the plot south of that, and a grassy lawn to the west. All three areas lined with pedestrian pathways.

And of course on football game days, the rodeo, or concerts you just walk across the bridge to the venue.

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Edited by cloud713

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i got a little more detailed on the surroundings with this one, adding in some buildings to create a mixed use development, but was a little less detailed with the park (note, the "Future Expansion" area.. i couldnt decide what amenities to put in the rest of the park.. i was trying to keep it from turning into a larger version of Discovery Green (though that wouldnt necessarily be a bad thing). this could turn the area into a new Garden District or Green District, especially if they kept the green roof tops/terraces in any developments that go up around the area. this one has much more potential to spur new development than the Uptown deck park IMO because there are 8 lots immediately surrounding the park that are either vacant or have run down warehouses on them that could be cleared off for new development. not counting the 4 developments i have drawn in with the park (a condo tower, apartment building, restaurant/bar/club venue, and hotel). Uptown Park is planned to be a 1.2 billion dollar renovation, with 6-7 towers. this park over/around 59 could easily spur over a billion dollars in new development for the city and more importantly that particular area which has been kind of slow to take off. i meant to draw my buildings taller, but as it was only on one sheet of paper it was hard to make that many floors drawn to scale. though i kind of like how it came out with the 14 story, 8 story, and 6 story buildings, all with green rooftop decks and tiered terraces, and now feel anything too tall in the area might throw off the scale of eado/the east end? im a skyscraper enthusiast though so that part of me always wants buildings to be taller, heh..

Red- potential development sites

Blue- drawn in developments included with the park

Yellow-new consolidated parking garages

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i think this.. coupled with THIS (below), would be huge for downtown, better connecting DT with the East End, and improving access to local parks. also i outlined a block north of MMP in pencil for a potential park to spawn development on the surrounding vacant blocks on the northeast side of downtown/north of MMP/east of the Court buildings. of course there would need to be greater police presence in the area/something done about the homeless, but it seems like the final frontier in developing downtown..

i kept the East Ends vision of a streetcar system and used their routes on the east and in southern downtown, but lengthened the downtown spur all the way to the Chevron buildings. from the Chevron buildings, streetcars go northeast down Smith and Louisiana (i envisioned it as a rotary/bidirectional system, with 4 different streetcar lines that meet up at the corners, but i suppose it could be a be one big one directional circle. i just figured tracks in both directions would be better if people had to travel a short distance the opposite direction from the flow of streetcar traffic). most all of the major parks in downtown are directly on this envisioned square streetcar system, including (from 12:00, clockwise) the new(?) block park where i think the old Harris County Jury Summons(?) office was, Discovery Green, Root Square, the new half block park they want to build in southern downtown next to the Savoy, Hermann Square, Tranquility Park, the park at the corner of Smith and Preston, and Market Square Park. not to mention all 3 of the sports arenas/stadiums in the downtown area are on a streetcar line.

also, at 3 of the 4 intersections with the streetcar lines and the light rail lines, there are light rail stations right in between or next to the streetcar lines, and at the 4th rail intersection (by Marriott Marquis), the stations are just east of where the streetcar line crosses, so transfers between light rail and streetcars should be very simple/convenient.

oh and i added some GreenWays/GreenTrails/enlarged landscaped sidewalks between Toyota Center (Root Square) and Discovery Green, DG and Minute Maid, and MMP and BBVA Compass Stadium, for friendlier pedestrian sidewalks between the three major sports venues and Discovery Green (where events associated with the sports teams in the area are held). the properties along side the west side of La Branch are all vacant, so a small section of each of the 3 blocks between TC and DG could be dedicated to these new widened landscaped walkways. from there, the walkway along Avenue De Las Americas to MMP can be squeezed in on the new/reclaimed land when they shrink the street from 8 lanes to 3. then between MMP and BBVA Stadium the walkway could be squeezed on the north side of Texas Ave, taking up a row of parking from the south side of the parking lots between MMP and BBVA.

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Well, not counting the "improving the Houston zoo" thread, I think that there are better ways to create park space pretty cheaply without depressing freeways, as that would be horrifically expensive.

 

What I think should be done is that since Houston has cleared out hundreds of homes near the bayous (whole subdivisions or parts of subdivisions), instead of spooky closed off areas, those areas become official parks that could survive an occasional floods. Take, for instance, the old subdivision at Saunders and Eastex Freeway. That could become a large regional park. And of course, every few subdivisions could have a small pocket park with some green space and a basketball court.

 

The "park space" graph is misleading, Detroit parks are piss-poor maintained for instance, and more $$$ spent on parks ≠ better parks.

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Detroit is a terrible example to use.

Exactly, I was commenting on how Detroit is tied for 13 in the first list with Houston at 30 in terms of "walkable park access".

 

As for converting condemned neighborhoods (for floods, not Superfund sites), the Brownwood subdivision of Baytown, the mother of "neighborhoods condemned due to flooding" is now a nature park. The new parks converted from neighborhoods could use their names. 

 

The problem is that Harris County Flood Control still owns the lots, so it would need to be transferred to another government entity to be converted to parkland.

 

I bet there are other places that could be converted to parkland in a pinch, but I'm wary of these lists because they don't take into account quality or ease of use.

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I don't have the numbers and am probably too lazy to look up the specs, BUT, I do travel across our fair city daily. There are many undeveloped green spaces. This irks me when I read about how Houston has no green space. Sure, we have green space, it's just not converted into a park OR anything, yet. My prayer to the environment gods is this; let's get a mayor who is backed by an environmentally conscious (not a nut, but someone like Lady Bird) business person and create more parks around the city; say at least a 5 acre park for every 15 city blocks. Yes, I can dream.

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Houston has more than plenty of park space . On the north , there is just about one big or small park per neighborhood . I would say add bigger swimming pools up to 3ft. and 5ft. deep . Recently , on tv someone came up with the idea of benches that could be chargers to any portable WIFI devices in downtown areas and city parks . A suggestion I have for Memorial Park and Buffalo Bayou is cut and remove the heavy brush and keep the trees but put industrial fencing along Buffalo Bayou and other parts of the bayou . El Franco Lee and Bear Creek could use a huge swimming pool and theatre facilities like Miller Outdoor.

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The Inner Loop has lots of relatively large parks, something that can't be said for other "urban" areas: Discovery Green, Memorial Park, Hermann Park, MacGregor Park, and even some parks that are a few blocks wide like the Greater Fifth Ward like Tuffy Park. All New York has is Central Park and a few tiny blocks of greenspace (always crowded and rarely more than a few trees, a basketball court, a playground, and benches) to constitute for "parks", and yet somehow those things are seen as "better" because they're in "walking distance".

 

The other thing is that even the large, less-well-kept apartment complexes have pools, such as the large ones in Gulfton, which have courtyards with pools. In cities in NYC or S.F., if you lived in an apartment, there isn't a way you'd have a courtyard with a pool unless you lived in a fancy building. And yet although these are like "private parks", they aren't covered.

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I don't really see a deficiency in the current city plans to improve the Parks system. It doesn't look like there has been any discussion on this thread of either the Bayou Greenways Program to develop linear parks along the bayous, or of the recently agreed bikeways program that will run on Centerpoint right of way. Those are both potentially transformative projects for the city and will greatly enhance park access and quality of life if executed correctly.

I would really like to see the city focus on executing those two projects well rather than taking on projects that are designed to make us look better on lists.

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I don't really see a deficiency in the current city plans to improve the Parks system. It doesn't look like there has been any discussion on this thread of either the Bayou Greenways Program to develop linear parks along the bayous, or of the recently agreed bikeways program that will run on Centerpoint right of way. Those are both potentially transformative projects for the city and will greatly enhance park access and quality of life if executed correctly.

I would really like to see the city focus on executing those two projects well rather than taking on projects that are designed to make us look better on lists.

 

Ditto.  I could not agree more.

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i completely agree. the CenterPoint trails announcement was made since this thread was originally started, but definitely should have been mentioned sooner. that is huge. they say there are 140 potential miles of trails along power line transmission ROWs, many running north/south which will be perfect for linking the east/west bayous and the all the Bayou Greenway Initiative trails.
im glad Bayou Greenways 2020 is moving forward. those are much larger improvements to Houston than any silly streetcar linking all the downtown parks or deck-parks built over freeways.

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does anyone know if the transmission lines running along the north-south railroad tracks east of 610, that run through Memorial Park are under consideration for the Centerpoint trail conversions? i was originally thinking it would be awesome for all the new residents in the mixed use developments between Westheimer and San Felipe to have easy access to Memorial Park, but then figured you might as well extend the trail south, at least to Brays Bayou and the Brays Bayou Trail, for west side hike/bike access from Brays Bayou to Buffalo Bayou, and all the residents in between.. there are a few parks, churches, and a rec center along the potential route.
if you continued the trail along the same transmission lines, going south of 610, there is an off-shoot/spur where the power lines branch off west, that goes directly through Willow Park, before going past 5 different schools, 3 churches, a public library, and two more parks, all within less than 3 miles (there are a number of apartment complexes further west if you wanted to extend the trail to accommodate additional users). it would be an awesome "Greenway"/trail IMO.

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