Private Parks in Houston, Kinda, Sorta, Not Really

This was originally posted on Live Oaks on July 21, 2010. Comments have not been migrated.

In 1976, some concerned Houstonians formed a group call the Houston Parks Board (HPB). According to the group’s web site:

They wanted to contribute to the city’s parks system through a private organization that would respect their needs and desires.

Since that time the group has helped acquire 15,000 acres for parks and raised more than $70 million. While this provides considerable evidence that private individuals will support parks, we shouldn’t get too giddy over the HPB. Their efforts at raising private money and using voluntary means to expand the city’s parks is only part of their story.

Like many such organizations, they are also political players:

In every project the Houston Parks Board works in partnership with community groups, interest groups, non-profit organizations, City of Houston, Harris County, and other entities.

In other words, HPB isn’t satisfied to allow individuals to support parks when they choose. HPB also wants to “nudge” them with government coercion. And now HPB wants to do this on a massive scale.

According to the Chronicle’s latest rah-rah editorial, the group wants to add 250 linear miles of park space along the cities bayous. HPB’s web site gives us a clue as to what is in store:

The Greater Houston Partnership will take the Bayou Greenway Initiative to our elected representatives in the coming months to secure support, and hopefully obtain funding commitments over the next two to three budget cycles.  As that process moves forward, HPB will continue to work with the community, increase its partnerships with other bayou organizations, continue on-going communication with its public partners, and pursue private funding opportunities.

If the Greater Houston Partnership can twist a few arms with promises of campaign donations and other political support, you had better hide your wallet. Because you are going to get to pay for this one way or another, whether you like the idea or not.

The Chronicle is already drooling over the idea, listing 7 reasons why it loves the idea. As is typical, this proposal is going to cure every alleged ill plaguing the city: flooding, air quality, the economy, etc. I am surprised that they didn’t claim that the proposal will also rid the city of aphids, reduce the price of gasoline, and clean up the oil in the gulf.

There seems to be no shortage of groups with grand ideas to improve the city. From the preservationists to Renew Houston to HPB, they all claim that life would be so much better if government had more controls on the lives of individuals and seized more of their wealth. Of course, they don’t use such language because that would require some degree of intellectual honesty. Instead, they will tell you that it is for your own good, i.e., the “public welfare.” After all, they, like David Crossley, are way smarter than you. If you don’t believe, just ask them.

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