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Here are a few ideas on how to expand/improve the zoo. The surface lot expansion zone is the least controversial of the two potential expansion locations, and would be replaced by a parking garage on the old surface lot across Hermann Park Dr. Since the zoo would kind of cut off access to the Lake from the new garage, I propose an additional, smaller garage off Concert Dr/the road to the back of Miller Amphitheater, to provide parking for visitors of the lake, amphitheater, and park in general.

The alternate expansion area is a current playground and community pool it appears, so there could be some protest about removing that. But the land seems pretty underutilized for such few amenities, and they could be relocated just west of McGovern Lake/north of the Alt Expansion site.

Each expansion site is approx 18-20 acres, so just one expansion would increase the zoo by 33%.

Our zoo is 55 acres

Ft Worths Zoo is 64 acres

Dallas' Zoo is 106 acres

San Diego's world famous zoo is 100 acres

Our zoo is a decent size, but if we want to bring more of the world class attractions to the zoo we need more room.

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I know a lot of us agreed in another thread that parking garages didn't seem appropriate for the ambiance of Hermann Park, but does 10+ acres of surface parking lots portray the image we want to visitors of one of our cities finest parks?

Edited by cloud713
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Another idea I had that was more to do with improvements/new attractions and less to do with significantly expanding the area of the zoo was to expand the zoo up/into the south side of McGovern Lake, for a mini sea world type vibe with animal enclosures jutting out into the lake, separated from the main body of water by netting, a glass wall or something along those lines. If it's netting or some other barrier besides a completely sealed off glass/metal/concrete wall, either get animals that can survive in freshwater, or artificially salt the lake to make it habitable for salt water creatures..

The water based exhibits could be to the Houston Zoo what the African Safari experience was to the Dallas Zoo (supposably the first of it's kind in the world)

I also had a similar idea for animal enclosures jutting out into Buffalo Bayou next to the aquarium, in order to expand it since it's smaller than most.

Edited by cloud713
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Instead of expanding surface lots, how about an offsite garage with shuttle service? The garage would be offsite, but near the park so there would not be a garage in the middle of the park grounds. The shuttle would be served by low floor buses to accommodate strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes. The garage would be ideally somewhere along Almeda south of MacGregor, maybe Almeda at Holcombe on that sliver of park land at the corner. I heard a rumor that Grocer's Supply wants to relocate, so maybe the garage could be located somewhere along Dixie or Holcombe. There would be stops at the zoo entrance on Cambridge, at the Miller Outdoor Theater, and the Golf Course on a circular route running from 6am-11pm daily. Of course, there would be the question of funding and utilization since the park is not at capacity everyday and there would surely be days where the buses wouldn't be running at capacity or where the lot wouldn't be full. Maybe that could be offset by sharing the garage as a place for Medical Center parking or Rodeo parking.

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Instead of expanding surface lots, how about an offsite garage with shuttle service? The garage would be offsite, but near the park so there would not be a garage in the middle of the park grounds. The shuttle would be served by low floor buses to accommodate strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes. The garage would be ideally somewhere along Almeda south of MacGregor, maybe Almeda at Holcombe on that sliver of park land at the corner. I heard a rumor that Grocer's Supply wants to relocate, so maybe the garage could be located somewhere along Dixie or Holcombe. There would be stops at the zoo entrance on Cambridge, at the Miller Outdoor Theater, and the Golf Course on a circular route running from 6am-11pm daily. Of course, there would be the question of funding and utilization since the park is not at capacity everyday and there would surely be days where the buses wouldn't be running at capacity or where the lot wouldn't be full. Maybe that could be offset by sharing the garage as a place for Medical Center parking or Rodeo parking.

I didn't mean "expand the surface lots".. I meant "expand the footprint of the zoo over the current surface lots, consolidating those into one garage for the zoo (and maybe another at Miller for the amphitheater, McGovern Lake, and the gardens access).

Much of this sounds like they might as well start advertising to people to use the Fannin South Station/Transit Center for Zoo parking instead, and everyone rides the light rail up to the zoo.

I still think a garage can be disguised enough to make building one in the park not be an issue. They could build a garage elsewhere in the park along the little Hermann Park train at one of its stations, and have people ride in to the zoo on that?

Idk. I'm undecided. I agree a parking garage is not very representative of Hermann Park, but like I mentioned yesterday.. Does 10-20 acres of surface parking lots in the middle of the park represent Houston's crown jewel appropriately? I would be down for a small garage or two..

Edited by cloud713
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Instead of expanding surface lots, how about an offsite garage with shuttle service? The garage would be offsite, but near the park so there would not be a garage in the middle of the park grounds. The shuttle would be served by low floor buses to accommodate strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes. The garage would be ideally somewhere along Almeda south of MacGregor, maybe Almeda at Holcombe on that sliver of park land at the corner. I heard a rumor that Grocer's Supply wants to relocate, so maybe the garage could be located somewhere along Dixie or Holcombe. There would be stops at the zoo entrance on Cambridge, at the Miller Outdoor Theater, and the Golf Course on a circular route running from 6am-11pm daily. Of course, there would be the question of funding and utilization since the park is not at capacity everyday and there would surely be days where the buses wouldn't be running at capacity or where the lot wouldn't be full. Maybe that could be offset by sharing the garage as a place for Medical Center parking or Rodeo parking.

 

This!  I really don't like the idea of using park land to build a garage.  But (if we could find land nearby at a reasonable cost) I do like the idea of an off-site garage with some kind of easy shuttle access to the zoo.

 

In my dreams, I wish we could have a people-mover system like the Getty Museum in LA.  (OK, I expect the usual suspects will take sides on this idea! ;-)  In any case, perhaps we could come up with an idea that would be practical and cost-effective. 

 

I just think Hermann Park is too small to dedicate land to parking.  A garage might allow us to reduce the footprint of surface parking, but even so, it is not the best use of park land, I think.

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This!  I really don't like the idea of using park land to build a garage.  But (if we could find land nearby at a reasonable cost) I do like the idea of an off-site garage with some kind of easy shuttle access to the zoo.

 

In my dreams, I wish we could have a people-mover system like the Getty Museum in LA.  (OK, I expect the usual suspects will take sides on this idea! ;-)  In any case, perhaps we could come up with an idea that would be practical and cost-effective. 

 

I just think Hermann Park is too small to dedicate land to parking.  A garage might allow us to reduce the footprint of surface parking, but even so, it is not the best use of park land, I think.

fair enough.. i can agree with this.

my only problem is i cant find any land close by that would be well suited for a Zoo Garage, without taking up costly TMC real estate or have a garage built over by the Centennial Gardens, which would still be a visual blight to the park. 

anything too far away and visiting the zoo becomes a hassle, but most of the land surrounding the park is prime real estate, so i still like my idea of building a garage or two and expanding the Zoo 20 acres or so over the current 4 parking lots on the west side of Hermann Park Dr and the land surrounding the lots, while building a garage for Zoo visitors on the lone parking lot east of Hermann Park Dr. if access to the lake and other amenities on the north west side of the park is crucial for people visiting by vehicle/cut off with the new zoo expansion, then an additional, smaller garage could be build somewhere on the road behind Miller Amphitheater for other visitors of the park.

we have that train that they could re-route/expand to come to a parking garage. or if the garage was close enough, build a trail system through some green-way, or go typical Houston and have an A/C skybridge with moving sidewalk.. heh.

another idea i had was to dig up the Miller Amphitheater hill and build a parking garage under the hill. there are a number of ways to disguise a garage aside from planting tall foliage around the perimeter of them.. have some combination/hybrid of the following ideas and i think we would have a decently disguised garage suitable for Hermann Park.

TheFountainscollagesmall.jpg

parking-garage-with-real-plants-930x620.

GreenWalledGarage_slideshow_06.jpg

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Besides things like creating an African Safari experience in a potential new 20 acre expansion over the 4 current surface parking lots west of Hermann Park Dr, what other attractions does our zoo lack that could put it on another level?

Those 2 poor white tigers at the Aquarium could use a new/larger home. Our zoo lacks Pandas, Polar Bears, and many other exotic animals that could bring in additional visitors. Maybe we could turn the expansion into a Yellowstone type experience with wild buffalo and other exotic animals roaming the "plains". Idk, just an idea for something "fresh" instead of copying the African Safari idea or something else that's been done before.

If we did something like "The Animals of Yellowstone" in just large mammals alone we could have bison, bears, bighorn sheep, bobcats, Canadian lynx, coyotes, elk, moose, mountain goats, mountain lions, mule deer, white tail deer, and grey wolves. Think how epic it would be to walk through all of those enclosures/breeds of animal in one location (without having to travel all the way to Yellowstone.. Heck, McGovern even has a little "old faithful" gyser in the middle.. Heh).

Edited by cloud713
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The problem with off-site shuttles, especially if they're too far away, is that visitors won't find it (remember: out of towners go there too) and end up circling around the Hermann Park area anyway. A little forethought could even bring parking around the South Loop area and taking the light rail back up, but most people don't have that forethought.

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Yes, you've been gone way too long. It's a zoo, built for your amusement, not the animals.

Just kidding. Seriously though, sure it would be nice if they have more space, but what you're suggesting cost money. If private funds can be gathered to buy lot's of acreage so the animals are free to roam, and if private funds will maintain the land & facilities, that's fine. But I for one will not approve of any public funds going into such a project. So that's where it ends. So to recap, don't give the city any ideas like this, it's a bad idea, they'll run up the cost like crazy and use this as an excuse to raise taxes. Leave it up to individuals to fund and own.

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The Zoo has really changed since the started charging a fee and had more money other than that in the city budget. It is now rated in the top 10 in the country and about the seventh most visited. San Diego has fallen to number 4. And the no. 1 zoo in the country both in quality and most visited is the Columbus (OH) Zoo. Zoos can really change. It can't physically grow because of the confines of the park. Move it near Katy where there's land, then the centralized population lose out.

Similarly, when the zoo was a small nothing but a bunch or cages and wrought iron fences, the Houston Museum of Natural Science with a few dinosaurs, and the Burke Baker Planetarium. Then fund raise, charge for admission, beg for donations and let it grow, it will become, as it is today, the SECOND-MOST visited museum of its kind in the country beaten only by the NY Natural History Museum.

Were it not for the land constraints I am sure it would have been mor like the SD Zoo except for the weather. Sadly, the zoo will continue to improve but only in quality but not in size for more exhibits unless Houston Zoo 2 happens in Memorial Park. Still, Houston is a blesses city.

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I think that my planned location is fine as it is (it isn't really that far away from the current location, and especially not in relative senses), but it's all the infrastructure built up.

And as much as the "park off-site" thing may sound great in theory, there's two problems:

1) People will still end up trying to circle around the park area trying to find parking, or may get lost trying to find the off-site parking.

2) Shuttles won't work all that well unless they have a dedicated ROW (like Disney World).

However, there's a few more crazier ideas I thought up:

Dig up the existing parking lot in phases for an underground parking deck (continuous) that links the parking garage across Hermann Park Drive. A ramp will lead up to the zoo, which uses the old space for expansion space.

Permanently close MacGregor Way between Almeda and Cambridge, renaming the last segment (between Cambridge and Holcombe) as Braeswood. This lets the park directly interface with the bayou. A parking garage at Holcombe and Almeda is built with a new dedicated shuttleway going back to the zoo.

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Dig up the existing parking lot in phases for an underground parking deck (continuous) that links the parking garage across Hermann Park Drive. A ramp will lead up to the zoo, which uses the old space for expansion space.

Permanently close MacGregor Way between Almeda and Cambridge, renaming the last segment (between Cambridge and Holcombe) as Braeswood. This lets the park directly interface with the bayou. A parking garage at Holcombe and Almeda is built with a new dedicated shuttleway going back to the zoo.

I don't think people would get lost finding "off-site" parking. Disneyworlds parking is practically off-site (I mean you have to take a tram ride to a freaking monorail, which you then take to the park), and it works perfectly. Just get some new signage directing people to a new exit on 288, ect.

So are you down for my idea of building a garage on the one lot to the east of Hermann Park Dr? The underground parking is neat, and would provide tunnel access under the expansion so some visitors using the garage can cut under the zoo to get to the lake/rest of the amenities in the northwest portion of the park.

I LOVE the idea of closing that stretch of MacGregor. It's pretty pointless anyways, seeing as you can get to all the same places by exiting at Holcombe.

Notice the "Greenway Trail" through Hermann park from the parking lot east of Hermann Park Dr all the way easy to MacGregor? What if they widened that trail (and possibly trenched it) and used it to transport guests to and from a parking garage on Almeda, where MacGregor would terminate, directly to the entrance of the zoo. (With the garage in this location you could keep the zoo signage and exit off 288 at MacGregor)

Yeah, running trams through the middle of a golf course might not be the most visually appealing or appreciative by the golfers (not to mention the possibility of getting hit by a stray ball), but that's why I suggested trenching the Greenway Trail.

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Edited by cloud713
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Although I tend not to support closing roads, that segment of MacGregor can go as it won't create any discontinuous segments between the road itself (except for one part and that would be renamed), it was already off the grid anyway (road grid), and in 2009 (about) they closed the westbound part of MacGregor that went all those trees and turned it into a trail, so instead of MacGregor being a long meandering jog through the park, it became a boring four lane road. There's also the fact that closing doesn't force you to detour awkwardly.

Edited by IronTiger
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If they redeveloped all the surface parking into a garage, then there would be a lot of room for a safari like expansion.

 

This would be cool, that parking lot that used to be the clubhouse parking for the golf course, turn that into a parking garage, turn the whole parking lot into more zoo.

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What I LOVE about this thread is that it opens my mind to possibilities I have never considered. First off, relocating the entire zoo seems bit extreme. I would keep the present zoo, but have it only keep smaller animals, reptiles, birds, etc. BUT, I would love to see some visionary develop a safari like habitat for the larger animals, reptiles and birds. I wonder if there is a way to keep some of the integrity of the plains west of Houston and still create a large animal habitat. I am thinking somewhere along the western part of the new 99 tollway between Katy and Cypress. Because, although it would be a bit out of the way NOW, think of 2 to 5 k protected acres in that area decades from now! :)

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I would keep the present zoo, but have it only keep smaller animals, reptiles, birds, etc. BUT, I would love to see some visionary develop a safari like habitat for the larger animals, reptiles and birds. I wonder if there is a way to keep some of the integrity of the plains west of Houston and still create a large animal habitat. I am thinking somewhere along the western part of the new 99 tollway between Katy and Cypress. Because, although it would be a bit out of the way NOW, think of 2 to 5 k protected acres in that area decades from now! :)

my problem with that is that seems like it might detract from the original zoo if you removed all the larger/arguably more interesting animals to a different location. and also the location. you are right in a few decades the area will be developed, but (hopefully) that will still be near the fringes of the west side, and not anywhere near the middle of the metro. plus there is that Alvin Zoo/open range animal habitat thing about just as far out from the city as your idea/off the Grand Parkway (when it gets built through Alvin).

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Ahhh didn't know about the Alvin development. yes, after I posted I honestly thought, OK Marcus, what attracted you the most ( besides the new landscaping) the larger or smaller animals? Honestly, the African zone was my favorite. So, I guess I just wanted to see them in a more open habitat.

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I have only been to the Houston Zoo once since it became private, other then that I went several times as a child in the 80's-90's. I was in awe as a child, then depressed going to zoos as I got older. This includes Dallas, St Louis, and DC zoos. The only zoo i have been to where it felt natural, the animals appeared happy, and it was a completely enjoyable experience was the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. The night zoo in Singapore also wasn't bad, but it was hard to tell exactly what was going on with the animals. Anyways, though I find it unfortunate how many of the animals are treated I am sure I will take my kids to the Houston Zoo (when I have some to take!).

 

I understand the flow of Hermann Park and the open feel. But what if a garage was built across Hermann Park Dr, there is a surface there in front of the Conservancy. Even  a 2 story garage with rooftop parking that has greenery/vines on the walls would effectively triple the size of that lot and they could convert most of the Zoo lot to expand the actual zoo?

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I understand the flow of Hermann Park and the open feel. But what if a garage was built across Hermann Park Dr, there is a surface there in front of the Conservancy. Even a 2 story garage with rooftop parking that has greenery/vines on the walls would effectively triple the size of that lot and they could convert most of the Zoo lot to expand the actual zoo?

This is exactly what I've been advocating! Glad were on the same page.. The zoo could use the other 4 or so large surface lots on the west of Hermann Park Dr to expand the zoo to the northeast another 20 or so acres so that those animals can wander around more freely, like many of us desire.

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The zoo does seem small , I would go by it to and fro appointments . It could use some extra room . I've been to the zoo in San Diego and like Houston has a miniature train but the difference is the zoo is huge and the train runs all through the zoo for quick and easy viewing . Hermann is room for expansion . Another Idea that would be possible is to remove or shrink the golf course by a few acres away from MacGregor street and from the walking trail.The thought of those flying balls passing trees that suppose to deflect them and knocking out the windows of passing vehicles and people jogging and walking on the asphalt trail being hit by them . That would really create some expansion room . 

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Well, southeast of Almeda and OST, there's some vacant plots of land in that industrial center...and I think if they reconfigured that area (GSC is moving soon, which will open that bunch of warehouses, they could be sectioned off into new tenants; additionally, the National Guard Facility at Bertner and OST could be used).

That way, we could move the golf course off of Hermann Park and open all that area up to redevelopment, some zoo parking [and then of course use the original parking to make more zoo, as discussed], some fields to play frisbee or whatever. Perhaps another "bark park" to keep the dogs off the area.

Edited by IronTiger
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That way, we could move the golf course off of Hermann Park and open all that area up to redevelopment, some zoo parking [and then of course use the original parking to make more zoo, as discussed], some fields to play frisbee or whatever. Perhaps another "bark park" to keep the dogs off the area.

now theres an idea! or even use a portion of the former golf course for those Botanical Gardens the city wants to build.

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So yes, I like the idea of expanding the zoo, and I can summarize all my ideas as such, and my ideas could improve the park. It'd take some money and some coordinating planning, but I think this idea will suit everyone, including new traffic patterns:

1) Redevelop the National Guard Facilities at Bertner and OST as a new vertical commercial building. As part of this project, the Kroger will be expanded and renovated (at least renovated). The new tenants of this redeveloped building are moved from the McGovern Campus (old Nabisco plant).

2) Convert the Nabisco plant back into industrial by having tenants move out between Hepburn and OST (roughly). Start by assembling the vacant tracts that are there and close off roads. This will be a new golf course when all is said and done and may encourage new residential development there (already some there)

3) After the golf course is built, the old golf course is abandoned. Optionally, we'll tackle closing MacGregor where it runs through the park, but it still carries a significant amount of traffic, including to the Medical Center. Holcombe, Almeda, and Cambridge will be upgraded in preparation for the closure, including new surfaces, better stoplights, more lanes, parking even.

4) In part of the abandoned golf course area, Hermann Drive will connect to MacGregor instead of intersecting Almeda and dead-ending at the 288 frontage road. That way, you could go directly to Hermann by exiting the 288 frontage road and helping traffic flow.

5) Close MacGregor between Almeda and Cambridge permanently. The pavement doesn't have to be totally removed, at least, not yet. Rename MacGregor between Cambridge and Holcombe as Braeswood.

6) But if we don't want to close MacGregor on expense issues (FWIW, there is a pedestrian underpass), it still doesn't matter for our other plans.

7) Extend Concert Trail to Hermann Drive. What's north of that will become new surface lots. The old surface lots become a zoo expansion, and what's south of that is developed as park space, mostly open lawns and a dog park. Perhaps even a municipal pool. It's a ton of space, and it could be better utilized.

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  • 3 years later...

A construction photo of Houston Zoo's forthcoming Texas Wetlands exhibit, from Saturday, 3/24/18:
 

IMG_5108.JPG

 

 

^Cypress Circle cafe has been gutted...  Will be neat to see how this structure will be re-imagined again.

Edited by txtiger
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  • 4 months later...
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Gee icky...are the animals and/or plants not represented accurately.  Is it because most Texas Wetland's don't have a café attached to them or stabilized shorelines.  Or, is it the TMC looming large over the background.   What's the issue and what were you expecting?  I haven't yet seen it, I'd like to know. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

@Urbannizer @Triton and other mods. With how wide spread and significant the renovations are to the Houston Zoo and how big the zoo is to the city, don't y'all think this should be part of some kind of Houston Zoo super thread and placed on "Going Up" in similar vain to my reason for putting the Rothko Renovations/Campus on "Going Up". Thoughts?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Looks like the Avian Conservation Center could be starting soon.

 

This was from HBJ:

 

Quote
Tellepsen Builders commercial construction 6200 Hermann Park Dr. #BA-G Houston 77030 Houston Zoo (bird aviary-holding area and aviary)   300000 2019-07-11 City of Houston Commercial

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The new Texas Wetlands exhibit opened earlier this year at the Houston Zoo...  (May be worth an Admin merging that 'Wetlands' exhibit thread into this one, somehow.)

 

Found some high-res images of the forthcoming 'South America's Pantanal' (opening next year) and 'Galapagos Islands' exhibits (opening in 2022) at a designer's website.  Scroll down a bit, here, for those:

http://www.studio-hansonroberts.com/on-the-boards

 

 

 

 

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I always thought it would be smart to make the golf course a 9 hole one and turn the other 9 holes into an expansion to the zoo they could have even built a nice pedestrian bridge over the road to connect the old part of the zoo to the new.

Edited by cougarpad
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19 minutes ago, cougarpad said:

I always thought it would be smart to make the golf course a 9 hole one and turn the other 9 holes into an expansion to the zoo they could have even built a nice pedestrian bridge over the road to connect the old part of the zoo to the new.

The golf course doesn't bring in more revenue to the park then the zoo does. Plus you can make more open habitats for the African animals.

Edited by cougarpad
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7 hours ago, Toopicky said:

 

Love the idea, Cougarpad ...golf has been over emphasized in CoH parks with the end result being  to crowd much larger numbers of park goers into a small fraction of the overall park area. I would hate to think the Park Board members emphasize THOSE activities that they themselves prefer to use rather than what the majority of taxpayers actually use.

The golf course at Hermann Park has been there since the 1920's, as long as the Zoo has existed. It isn't crowding out anyone, and is popular, especially with folks who can't afford the higher end courses.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On ‎8‎/‎16‎/‎2019 at 8:22 PM, Ross said:

The golf course at Hermann Park has been there since the 1920's, as long as the Zoo has existed. It isn't crowding out anyone, and is popular, especially with folks who can't afford the higher end courses.

 

I didn't know you were so into historic preservation. I say let the market determine things. The zoo gets 2.5 million visitors a year and is crowded onto 55 acres. How many visitors does the golf course get?

 

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  • The title was changed to Houston Zoo

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