Board members of Houston Botanic Garden, a nonprofit formed in 2002 that’s been looking to bring a big-time garden to the city ever since, have had their eyes on several properties, including the KBR site in the Fifth Ward. But it’s the 150 acres home to the 18-hole Gus Wortham Golf Course — the oldest in Texas — that they are after now. The course, which includes a driving range, is owned by the city, and Jeff Ross, president of the garden club, explains that the organization hopes to ink a “long-term lease” that would allow it to “repurpose the property,” much like the 55-acre VanDusen Botanical Garden had done with the old Shaughnessy Golf Club in Vancouver. Ross explains that this repurposing could mean reserving as many as 65 acres for a 9-hole course — which could be built from scratch or involve a kind of rejiggering of the existing holes — and setting up the gardens on the remaining 85-90 relatively hilly acres that roll here toward Brays Bayou.
The 106-year-old course is just north of Idylwood and west of Country Club Place and Simms Woods. Ross explains that the property is appealing in part because of its proximity to the under-construction East End Line that runs along Harrisburg Blvd., just one block north of here, directly to and from the George R. Brown Convention Center and hotels Downtown. Also, says Ross, there are a number of elementary and charter schools in surrounding neighborhoods — Magnolia Park, Eastwood, Third Ward, etc. — that the garden could serve. Additionally, the Brays Bayou hike and bike trail curves along the property’s perimeter and could provide another point of access that would lessen the traffic impact on Lawndale, Wayside, and Harrisburg.
There is, of course, some opposition. A group calling itself Friends of Gus Wortham turned away a few years ago the Houston Dynamo, which was looking to build a facility here. Today, the Houston Chronicle reports that the group is trying to circulate a petition that would preserve the course as is and secure a historic designation to prevent any future development.
- The Time is Now [Houston Botanic Garden]
- Helping To Preserve Historic Gus Wortham Park [Friends of Gus Wortham]
- Gus Wortham Golf Course again battles for preservation [Houston Chronicle ($)]
- Come and explore all that we have in bloom. [VanDusen Garden]
Maps: Houston Botanic Garden