As the clock ticked over into 2016, Houston Botanic Garden and the Houston Golf Association each had something else to celebrate: both groups met end-of-year 5-million-dollar fundraising goals required by agreements with the City to carry forward their respective plans for 2 east Houston golf courses. The golfers raised enough money to move forward with preservation and renovation of Gus Wortham Golf Course, at 7000 Capitol street (south of the Houston Ship Channel Turning Basin, where Wayside meets Polk). Houston Botanic Garden had initially pushed to add some color to the oldest greens in Texas and redevelop the Brays-Bayou-side space as a public garden.
That garden is now planned instead for above-pictured Glenbrook Golf Course, a semi-maintained set of greens-turned-greenspace along Sims Bayou north of 45 from Hobby Airport (just outside the southeast corner of the Loop).
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Teeing Off in East Houston
CITY COUNCIL APPROVES BOTANICAL GARDEN ON GLENBROOK PARK GOLF COURSE, GUS WORTHAM COURSE RENOVATIONS City council voted unanimously this morning to give the go-ahead to plans to renovate the Gus Wortham Golf Course north of Idylwood, and allow the group that had previously attempted to turn that location into a botanical garden to develop a facility instead on the current site of the 18-hole Glenbrook Park Golf Course, along Sims Bayou on the north side of the Gulf Fwy. south of Loop 610. The long-term lease agreements are victories for the operating organizations behind both efforts, but the garden group clearly got its second choice; an Inner Loop garden on site of the oldest golf course in Texas would have had better access to public transportation including the new light-rail line, and would have been surrounded by less freeway noise. If the Houston Golf Association fails to raise $5 million for the Gus Wortham redo before the end of this year, it’s possible the split could be rejiggered; the Houston Botanic Garden Board is being given until the end of 2017 to raise $20 million for its efforts. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Glenbrook Park Golf Course: Houston Golf Nut
GOLFERS APPEAR TO HAVE WON GUS WORTHAM It might not have sounded quite so explicit to all onlookers, but the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris declares yesterday’s city council vote a death knell for plans to build a botanical garden on the site of the Gus Wortham Golf Course. The vote was taken in support of city efforts to come to an agreement with the Houston Golf Association for a plan to renovate the 106-year-old course at Lawndale and Wayside in the East End, which the nonprofit would then operate. But, writes Morris: “If the city cannot reach terms with HGA, the mayor said, she will seek proposals from private golf operators rather than hand the site to the botanic garden backers, as previously planned.” The HGA will need to meet designated fundraising targets — likely $5 million of a possible total $15 million renovation cost — for its plan to proceed. Mayor Parker and councilmembers appeared eager to steer the group pushing for a city botanical garden 6 miles southeast, to the Glenbrook Park golf course outside the Loop along Sims Bayou, just east of the Gulf Fwy. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: PGA
GOLFERS AND GARDENERS GET GROUND RULES FOR GRABBING GUS WORTHAM PARK The deadline for the Houston Golf Association to raise the $15 million the city says it’ll need to save and restore the Gus Wortham Park golf course at Lawndale and Wayside will be the end of next year, Gail Delaughter reports. If the nonprofit organization can’t meet that goal, the city will have a separate set of fundraising goals set up for the group that wants to scrap the greens and build a botanic garden at the 150-acre site, which lies just a couple blocks south of the coming far eastern extension of Metro’s East End light-rail line. If Gus Wortham golf supporters do come up with the funds, the botanical garden will likely be planned for the Glenbrook Park golf course on the northeast side of the Gulf Fwy. outside the loop. The targets and dates will be encoded in separate contracts the city is putting together with the 2 groups and put up for a vote in city council sometime this month. [Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Houston Parks Board
A reader sends in a report from the “spirited debate” at Monday night’s public forum at the E.B. Cape Center on Leeland St., covering proposed plans to convert the Gus Wortham Golf Course at Wayside Dr. and Lawndale St. in Houston’s East End, just north of Idylwood, into a new botanical garden: “Councilman Robert Gallegos, Mayor Parker, and many other politicians were there, as well as a standing room only crowd of those for the botanical garden (wielding the provided flowers), and for saving the golf course (fanning themselves with provided Gus Wortham fans). The crowd was encouraged to be quiet to keep things running smoothly, but this didn’t always happen, as many folks were pretty passionate about their opinions. Those wanting to save the golf course had at least double the presence of the garden folks, and were admittedly louder as things went on.”
Our correspondent, who claims to support renovating the existing golf course and putting a botanical garden elsewhere, notes that an earlier proposal in which the 150-acre site just west of Brays Bayou would have been shared by a 9-hole golf course and a new garden in the northern half has been scrapped. Houston Botanic Garden president Jeff Ross showed the latest “rough draft” of the proposed garden plan. Here’s a screen-shot photo:
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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.
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