Some Houstonians are up in arms about a plan to turn the Glenbrook Golf Course into a taxpayer subsidized privately owned botanic garden.
The project first began to draw attention when the Houston City Council, under Mayor Annise Parker, entered into a contract lease agreement with Houston Botanic Gardens in January of 2015. HBG is a private, non-profit corporation.
HBG believes that their garden will be a major asset to the local community and will greatly benefit the city. According to their purpose statement:
“We will enrich people’s lives through outstanding displays and programs, serve as a model for sustainability, and inspire all who visit to become environmental stewards as they learn more about plants and the entire natural world. In the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country, our gardens will be places of great beauty providing an oasis for quiet contemplation, learning, inspiration, and research.”
HBG’s contract, approved in a unanimous vote by the council, will lease the 120 acres which are currently occupied by the Glenbrook Golf Course to HBG for 30 years at the cost of only $100. The lease can be renewed in 30 year terms for up to 90 years at $100 each term.
After approving the contract with HBG, city council voted to appropriate three million dollars from the city’s Capital Improvement Fund to construct a highway entrance for the park. The city will also pay for all irrigation water used by the botanic garden with taxpayer’s dollars for the next 90 years.
Many local residents are angry that the botanic garden will charge an entrance fee, although HBG has considered periodic “free days” like some museums and gardens currently do. Although a price has not been set, HBG says that it will be comparable to other botanic gardens around the nation, which charge on average around $20-$27. As a private corporation, HBG will retain all revenues generated from the garden.
Interestingly, HBG, which is marketing the garden as an environmentally friendly project, has drawn significant opposition from urban liberals and environmentalists. In order to oppose the project, local residents formed a nonprofit called Houstonians for Urban Green Spaces, or HUGS.
“HUGS is working to stop this environmental, economic and racial injustice.” The organization states, “We are seeking the support of Houstonians, schools, youth groups, and community and environmental organizations in our effort to stop this injustice and implement a sustainable plan that will continue to provide green space and wildlife habitat.”
According to HUGS, many members of the major environmentalist, left leaning group Sierra Club are also joining them in the effort to keep Glenbrook Golf Course from being turned into a botanic garden.
Despite the opposition, HBG is going through with their plans. In order to meet the terms of their contract HBG must raise $20 million from private donors by the end of 2017. If the fundraising goal is met, construction will begin in 2018, and the garden will open its gates to the public in 2020.