July 26, 2007
Houston: Greener than you think

After an instant-replay review, it turns out the city of Houston has more green space than you might have thought. Or that it might have thought, for that matter.

A report released Monday by the Trust for Public Land shows that Houston has 27.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, ranking third behind Raleigh, N.C., and San Diego among 19 cities of comparable density studied.

The same group's survey a year ago showed Houston had 16.5 acres per 1,000 residents, below what was then the national average, 20.6 acres, for major cities of low to moderate density.

The difference is mostly the result of a more thorough accounting of parks and green space owned by governmental agencies in Houston, said Peter Harnik, the trust's director.

"Joe Turner pushed very hard to get that land counted," Harnik said, referring to Houston's parks and recreation director. "You're dealing with a parks department that's very, very aggressive in counting everything."


In this year's study, [Harnik] said, the trust discovered that several agencies that own public parkland in Houston hadn't been counted previously. These included the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department, which owns 2,175 acres of green space along bayous in Houston, and the Fort Bend County Parks Department, which owns 2,023 acres in the city.

But the biggest difference, Harnik said, was that Houston's parks department reported owning 38,934 acres of parkland, almost twice the 19,800 acres it reported a year previously.

Turner was traveling Tuesday and couldn't be reached. Frank Michel, a spokesman for Mayor Bill White, said this increase was partly the result of some successful negotiations with the Trust for Public Land over what constitutes a park.

For example, Michel said, the city argued successfully that the surface area of Lake Houston -- almost 12,000 acres -- should be counted as parkland. Harnik said the trust agreed that bodies of water should be counted if they were associated with a park owned by a government agency. Houston acquired the 5,000-acre Lake Houston Park in August 2006 from the state parks department.

The report is here. While some of this may be accounting mojo, I don't think anyone would seriously argue that the city has focused on stuff like this lately, and that's all to the good.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 26, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston