Houston leaders launch project to make city 'greener'

- Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis on Monday announced the Park-Smart Precinct One project, a plan to advance equitable access to quality parks and green spaces to improve community health and well-being, build social connections and resilience, and expand environmental safeguards after Hurricane Harvey.

The Park-Smart Precinct One project will assess existing parks and trails, identify key barriers to using them, and pinpoint green-space gaps. Team members will cultivate deep, diverse community engagement to create a community-based vision for increasing access to parks and trails, and they will use sophisticated Geographic Information System (GIS) modeling to identify the most effective places to invest in parks and green infrastructure, particularly in vulnerable and underserved areas.

Whether it’s improvement to existing parks or adding new green spaces, Commissioner Ellis says parks are more than just a playground with grass, and for the next year and a half, his team is ready to make Houston a bit greener.

“Green space is really what defines us as a people. No matter how rich you are or how poor you are, there’s nothing better than that sun on a good day," says Commissioner Ellis.

“A lot of these areas that we’ll be reaching out to have been underserved historically for a long time and we feel everyone deserves to have a great park in their community,” says Marlon Connley, Houston representative for the Trust For Public Land.

And while only at the beginning of this long trail, expected to last around 18 months, leaders believe the foundation laid now will welcome not just a healthy future for Houston, but a greener one too.

“Parks and trails are necessary, they’re not negotiable amenities," says Commissioner Ellis.

December 5 will be the first meeting when Precinct One leaders listen to residents. The location is yet to be determined. This is an effort, officials say, that requires a lot of community involvement in order for this project to succeed.

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