City of Houston

Houston to protect more than 7,400 acres of nature preserves under new city ordinance

City-owned land in a total of 26 parks will be protected under Houston’s first land preservation ordinance, which aims to combat climate change along with improving air and water quality.

Sheldon Park Bee
David J. Phillip/AP
A bee takes off from a flower Monday, April 20, 2020, at Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center in Houston.

The City of Houston is protecting some of its most beloved nature preserves in an effort to combat climate change, improve the quality of life of its residents and mitigate flooding in a region devastated by powerful storms in recent years.

The Houston City Council last week passed an ordinance that will protect in perpetuity a total of 7,423 acres of land within 26 city parks, with the goals of improving air and water quality, reducing urban heat island effects, protecting wildlife habitat and providing educational opportunities for the public.

"Prior to now, there has never been any type of land preservation legislation or ordinances in the City of Houston," Kelli Ondracek, the natural resources manager for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, said in a video released by the department. "Now that these areas have been approved as nature preserves, they will be protected and they won't be able to have development. They're just dedicated to nature."

Houston's Nature Preserve Ordinance applies only to city-owned preserves – whether managed by its parks department, Harris County or another metropolitan county – and will limit the construction of traditional park facilities in those areas. Instead, amenities will focus on passive recreational activities such as hiking and bird-watching.

Among the amenities that can be added in a protected preserve include trails, benches, trash cans, signage and bird-friendly lighting.

 

Ondracek said the designated preserves are located in parks throughout almost all corners of the city, in the interest of serving the region equitably. The largest preserve is in Lake Houston Wilderness Park, a forested area of nearly 5,000 acres near New Caney.

Also being protected are preserves in five Northeast Houston parks, six in the southeast part of the city and three in the southwest part of the city. The group also includes White Oak Parkway, which is a little bit northwest of downtown.

“Across our city's parks, you can find prairies, forests and wetlands, all of which serve their own purpose in creating a healthy ecosystem,” said Houston Parks Board president and CEO Beth White, whose nonprofit was created by the city and manages other greenspace amenities in the region. “Houston Parks Board applauds Mayor (Sylvester) Turner for his inspiring leadership and his talented team at the Houston Parks and Recreation Department for making the Nature Preservation Ordinance a reality. We hope this measure will encourage further preservation of our land in the years to come."

Ondracek said the new ordinance is in line with Turner's goals for storm resiliency and limiting the impacts of climate change. The trees and other vegetation in a nature preserve capture and store carbon while releasing oxygen, and they also help absorb water, slow it down during runoff events and serve as a cleaning mechanism as water flows into the region's bayou network.

"You think about all the construction and development that's happening all over the city, it's very important that we identify a nature preserve in several parks throughout the city," said Kenneth Allen, the director of the parks department. "I think it sets a great example for other cities, for people in our community, to respect and enjoy nature and preserve it for generations to come."

Below is a list of the 26 parks where nature preserves are being protected, along with the addresses for each.

Blackhawk Park: 9401 Fuqua St.

Brock Park: 8201 John Ralston Rd.

Cambridge Village Park: 13000 Nitida St.

Clinton Park: 200 Mississippi St.

Crooker/Moody Park: 400 Westmont Dr.

Cullinan Park: 6676 Long Dr.

East Tidwell Park: 9300 E. Tidwell Rd.

Eisenhower Park: 13400 Aqueduct Rd.

Farnsworth Park: 0 Basin St. in Porter

FM Law Park: 8400 Mykawa Rd.

Freed Art & Nature Park: 1400 White Oak Pkwy.

Furman Street Greenspace: 0 Furman St.

Herman Brown Park: 400 Mercury Dr.

Keith-Wiess Park: 12300 Aldine-Westfield Rd.

Lake Houston Wilderness Park: 22031 Baptist Encampment Rd. in New Caney

Maxey Park: 601 Maxey Rd.

Robert C. Stuart Park: 7250 Bellfort St.

Sheldon Park: 8815 Pineland Rd.

South Main Estates: 12556 Zavalla St.

Sylvan Rodriguez Park: 1201 Clear Lake City Blvd.

Taylor Park: 11450 Almeda Rd.

The Lorraine Cherry Nature Preserve: 2400 W. 11th St.

Tidwell Park: 9720 Spaulding St.

West Mount Houston Park: 10300 N. Houston-Rosslyn Rd.

White Oak Parkway: 1513 White Oak Dr.

Woodland Park: 212 Parkview St.

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