A survey conducted by the Rice Kinder Institute of Urban Research at Rice University revealed Houston residents are in support of having more improved parks and green space – and are even willing to pay more money.
More than 5,000 Houston residents were surveyed between August 1 – August 28 about public spending, and parks and greenspace was a hot topic among those who participated. A study by the Kinder Institute found while Houston has the largest urban park systems, it falls behind in terms of funding, compared to other major cities.
According to the Kinder Institute, residents were asked how much they think the city should spend on its parks and green space and more than two-thirds championed for $100 or more per resident. 70% of residents said they would pay the city an additional $24 per year with higher support coming from participants who used parks more frequently. 51% supported paying as much as $60 a year.
Daniel Potter is the Senior Director of Research at the Kinder Institute. He said with the mayoral election in November, it's important to know where the public stands on the city's greenspace.
"A Mayor can want to do a bunch of different things, but if there’s not that kind of public support, those things that a mayor might want to do could be very short-lived."
MORE: Potter discusses the survey on Houston Matters
An analysis by the Kinder Institute revealed Houston spends about $32 per resident for its Parks and Recreation Department – the lowest compared to other major Texas cities. Dallas spends around $121 per resident, Austin $150, and San Antonio $147.
Potter said much of Houston's park funding comes from private dollars, but it goes to major projects like Discovery Green, and Memorial and Hermann Park.
"Those private dollars, however, are not necessarily going into your neighborhood parks, your pocket parks, the parks that perhaps the vast majority of Houston’s think about when they think of their park," he said. "It requires public dollars to go into those neighborhood parks and those pocket parks, to make sure that we’re revitalizing and taking care of them, maintaining them."
Potter said more public funding could address the inequities within the neighborhood parks and greenspaces. The Kinder survey showed 75% of Houston-area residents were within a 5 to 7 minute walk from a park or greenspace, and a little more than half of Houston's Five Corners district – could say the same.
The report also included interviews from current Mayor Sylvester Turner, and former mayors Bill White and Annise Parker on how their adminstrations approached park investments. Potter said while both White and Parker's made advancements to bigger projects like the Downtown space and Bayou Greenways — Turner's administration focused on enhancing neighborhood parks. Potter tauts a few of Turner’s initiatives like the 50/50 Parks Initiative, and Love Our Parks.
"This is an opportunity under Turner that seemed to have brought attention into those neighborhood parks, and done so in a way that seemed to center the community," said Potter. " I think you also see some of the limits to that. The ability to bring in private dollars where 50/50 Parks still continues to build out as well as the Love Our Park Initiative.