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Monday, April 09, 2007

Save a Park

As many of you who love the outdoors know, city, state and federal parks are taking a beating from being chronically underfunded. Maintenance is not being kept up, some parks are being let go (sold or given away) and new park lands are not being added except when generous landowners donate the land. This is a crisis as far as I am concerned. The next link is a presentation from the Texas Sierra Club on the state of parks in Texas.

From this report: "Texas has a statewide average of 12.2 acres per 1,000 people in local parks, ranking it substantially below the national goal of 22-30 acres per 1,000 people as recommended by the National Recreation and Park Association"

And a link with a parks score that shows Houston is behind in parks and recreation opportunities at http://www.earthday.net/UER/report/tx_houston.html The details of the report says that while Houston is the fourth largest city, it is ranked at 37th in number of parks and 28th in park area per citizen.

Which brings me to the Save a Park idea. If you check this link: http://savethispark.org, you'll find some folks who have put together a coalition to buy park land that is under threat. From their website: "This beautiful 20.2 acre pocket wilderness is the largest remaining native Texas forest inside the 610 Loop. Containing amenities no money can buy - over 1000 mature trees, a growing and diverse understory, serene wooded trails, a diverse bird and butterfly fauna - this irreplaceable piece of parkland represents a haven for wildlife and a tranquil spot for Houstonians seeking respite from the stresses of urban living.

To lose even a portion of the 20.2 acres would seriously compromise the integrity and tranquility of the remainder. Yet 5 acres is still under threat of being turned from nature preserve into townhomes. In order to fulfill the purchase option with HISD, that much of the park was put up as collateral for a bridge loan that enabled the Houston Parks Board to fulfill the purchase price by the contract’s deadline."

If you feel you can donate, use the above website to do so.

But here's an even better idea (not mine but I borrow from wherever I can!). First ask your company (where you work) to donate to this cause. Many companies have matching programs, ask HR department.

If you work for a company or own a company here in Houston or in the Houston area, why not persuade your company to buy land for a park near its location and donate it to the city or county. It's odd to me that a company will use millions to buy the rights to name a stadium, but will not donate millions to add parks to the place where they are located and where their thousands of employees live. If you work for a smaller company, ask them to donate upgrades to an existing park. I can picture Exxon benches and water fountains, Lockheed playgrounds, and Chase/JP Morgan walkways and exercise equipment. How about an American National Insurance fountain and an AIG sculpture in an existing park? An Anadarko Petroleum climbing wall and a Baker Hughes picnic pavilion? For smaller companies, maybe a few trees planted with a plaque or a bench painted with their logo. They can advertize to their heart's content so long as it benefits the city and its citizens. This idea is already used in museums, such as the Children's Museum of Houston where corporations have their names plastered all over the building and exhibits, which they paid for or underwrote.

Many foundations and non-profits donate to park organizations such as the Buffalo Bayou partnership. Through corporate and foundation support, parks are being added, but slowly. Here's an example of what can be done: http://www.buffalobayou.org/sabinebagby.html

I can imagine a time when our city is twice the size in population and half the size in park land. Is that a city where you'd want to live? Act now and save our parks!


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