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Botanical Gardens / May 4, 2018

The proposed Houston Botanic Garden will have an iconic bridge that is visible from Interstate-45. In this sketch, dozens of potted trees offer visual drama.

Photo: West 8

Custom ceiling fans will be integrated into colonnades in the proposed Houston Botanic Garden, offering visitors a cooling breeze for year-round comfort. year-round comfort.

Photo: West 8 The proposed Houston Botanic Garden includes a conservatory that takes inspiration from the vein pattern of the Victoria lily. Inside this enclosure, the conservatory will display exotic, tropical species native to the Amazon region in South America. lessThe proposed Houston Botanic Garden includes a conservatory that takes inspiration from the vein pattern of the Victoria lily. Inside this enclosure, the conservatory will display exotic, tropical species ... morePhoto: West 8

At the proposed Houston Botanic Garden, it will be hard to keep adults out of the children's garden.

Photo: West 8

There will be ample lawn space for events ranging from movie nights to plant sales at the proposed Houston Botanic Garden.

Photo: West 8

Visitors to the proposed Houston Botanic Garden will be able to stroll through a woodland garden.

Photo: West 8

A garden-side cafe is part of the plan for the proposed Houston Botanic Garden.

Photo: West 8

Two very different bridges will span Sims Bayou in the proposed Houston Botanic Garden.

Photo: West 8

The proposed Houston Botanic Garden in southeast Houston doesn't exist yet, but an artist's rendering shows an aerial view.

Photo: West 8

A planned reflection pool at the new Houston Botanic Garden is expected to attract parties and other special events.

Photo: West 8

Plans for botanic garden move forward, despite neighbors' protests

Until now, the proposed Houston Botanic Garden has delivered more pain than gain to some neighbors in the southeast quadrant of the city. The future garden site is still functioning as Glenbrook Golf Course, and some residents would rather keep it just as it is.

But as organizers have continued to meet with community members, tweak the master plan to include some of their suggestions, ratchet up fund-raising goals and exercise their option to lease the 120-acre site from the city, plans for the garden are taking shape.

The proposed landscape would include bridges connecting two halves of the garden, a visitors' center, hike and bikes trails, as well as space for classes and community activities. Plans would make the most of the verdant Sims Bayou and Houston's temperate climate.

Advocates hope the expected benefits for the city will outweigh individual complaints.

"No change happens without angst, " says Jeff Ross, the garden's president and CEO. "But we're very committed to working with the community and problem-solving."

Neighborhood concerns range from fears of excessive traffic on Park Place Boulevard - the main thoroughfare leading to the garden - to the worry that neighbors accustomed to crisscrossing the golf course wouldl have to pay admission fees to maintain access.

More Information

Public lecturePlans for the Houston Botanic Garden will be discussed at the 2016 Nancy Stallworth Thomas Horticulture Lecture. The lecture is free and open to the public.

When: 10 a.m. Feb. 17

Where: Bagby Hall, St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 717 Sage at Woodway

Guest speaker: Adriaan Geuze, co-founder and principal director of West 8.

"The Park Place Civic Club is taking the position of formal opposition, " President Larry Bowles says. "Members feel that the garden will disrupt the neighborhood environment that we're used to here and that the open space that the current Glenbrook Golf Course provides will be in essence taken away."

Garden seen as gift

But advocates say the golf course is underutilized and poorly maintained.

Ann Collum, president of the Glenbrook Valley Civic Club, sees the project as a gift.

"I think the garden will be a wonderful asset for our area, " says Collum, referring to potential financial, educational and cultural gains. "But whenever we have progress, there are always some against it. There have been a lot of untruths and distortions, and some people have just latched on to them."

Collum, a retired teacher, perennial volunteer and lifelong resident of southeast Houston, says Sims Bayou serves as the perfect backdrop for the garden. And the municipal golf course, 8 miles from downtown off Interstate 45, is the logical place to put it, she says.

Translator

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The dream of a botanic garden began with Nancy Thomas and Kay Crooker more than 30 years ago, when they imagined a garden that would rival those they had visited in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York. Though the idea has been kicking around for decades, drawings that show what the garden might look like have been available for just the past few months. Ross and members of West 8, an international urban planning and landscape architecture firm, have been sharing the drawings around town and talking up the garden's most interesting features.

"One of the things that makes the site unique is that we have the old, meandering Sims Bayou as the northern boundary, and between that and the newer channel is an island, " Ross says.

Though many miles of Houston's bayous have been lined with concrete in an attempt to control flooding, Sims Bayou is beautiful in its natural state.

"I spent 35 years as a civil engineer, so I make no judgment, " Ross says, "but those unimproved segments of bayous are few and far between. And they're wonderful now. They create great wildlife and horticulture opportunities for us."

Fundraising under way

In December, the group met its first fundraising goal of $5 million. The next goal is an additional $15 million by the end of 2017.

At that point, the group could begin construction, with the hope of opening to the public in 2020. Ross prefers not to say how many millions more will need to be raised but says that fundraising will be done in multiple phases over a span of 20 to 30 years.

"We're still working to define that initial phase, " Ross says. "We have to figure out how much garden we need to build to create visitation and generate revenue."

Source: www.houstonchronicle.com