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The greening of Houston

September 28, 2012
622x350Ed Wulfe
Original story here


The Bayou Greenway Initiative is a bold and visionary plan to complete parks and trails along the 10 bayous that cross our city, creating an iconic park system that will redefine Houston. More than 20 different organizations have spent nearly $2.4 billion in crafting half the system within the city limits thus far. This November however, with meaningful support from the city, Mayor Annise Parker and you, a parks bond will help connect all these parks and all of these trails into one united and comprehensive system.

Over the past several months, multiple organizations dedicated to Houston’s Bayou Greenway Initiative and a new organization, ParksByYou, have been uniting parks and bayou enthusiasts. Their work aims to mobilize all of us to vote “yes” for Proposition B on the ballot, a parks bond referendum that will pump $166 million into our parks and bayou properties – all of it targeted at real construction and capital improvements. While $66 million will be used to make critical improvements to existing neighborhood parks all across the city, $100 million of those funds will be matched with private dollars to finally close the gaps along our bayou system and create continuous parks and trails. In less than a decade, with these bond dollars, Houston will have more than 150 miles of trails and a park system like no other in America. Our bayous are Houston’s unique natural feature and will be improved, enhanced and expanded, rather than paved and neglected as in the past. Proposition B is a way to create parks and green space for all of us to experience and enjoy with no increase in taxes.

Our bayous meander through almost every neighborhood, and by building a system of connected linear parks along their banks, we will ensure that a majority of Houstonians will have access to green space within just a few miles of work or school or home. It’s been shown that regular physical activity reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases, and there is strong evidence showing that people exercise more when they have convenient access to parks and recreational opportunities. A vote for the parks bond will contribute to the overall health of Houston’s population while simultaneously enhancing our quality of life.

Parks along our bayous will inspire and energize economic development, increase property values, improve flood control and help manage water quality. The desirability of property located near parks and green space is high because people are attracted to inviting and pleasurable places to play and exercise, resulting in stronger and more active neighborhoods with appealing places for people of all ages.

Parks are transformational and will strengthen our ability to attract employers and employees to our area, and will serve to help encourage and retain a talented workforce. Houston has long been known as a city of opportunity and a good place to work in a diverse and open society. But today, we are competing with many other cities in the U.S. and abroad for businesses seeking to relocate, and our future economic health depends on our ability to continue developing as a city where people want to work and live. Talented young professionals strongly consider quality of life when choosing where to settle, and access to parks is a vitally important element in the quality-of-life equation. The Bayou Greenways project with its linear park concept supported by Proposition B will give Houston the nation’s largest system of accessible recreational trails, and strengthen our advantage in the national and international competition for the workforce of the future.

The parks referendum, Proposition B on the ballot, is one of five city of Houston measures we will be asked to consider on Nov. 6. At the bottom of the ballot, after making our choices for the president, the Congress, state and local representatives, and judges, we will be able to vote for parks. The other four referenda will allow us all to approve libraries, police and fire stations, and recycling centers. Remarkably, the city bonds will not require a property tax increase, and every single measure will make our lives better, healthier and fun. By voting yes for every one of these proposals, you’ll be voting YES for Houston’s future.

Wulfe serves as chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership‘s Quality of Life Committee and co-chairman of the Bayou Greenway Initiative.


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