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Green for greenspace: Rich and Nancy Kinder donate $50 million to ambitious bayou parks plan

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Bayou Greenways 2020 Project rendering October 2013
Rendering of a portion of the Bayou Greenways 2020 Project. Rendering courtesy of Bayou Greenways 2020
1 Rich and Nancy Kinder at the MFAH opening reception for American Adversaries October 2013
Rich and Nancy Kinder Photo by © Jenny Antill
Bayou Greenways 2020 Project rendering October 2013
1 Rich and Nancy Kinder at the MFAH opening reception for American Adversaries October 2013

It seems to be a week for $50 million donations. A day after the Moody Foundation donated that precise amount to the University of Texas College of Communication, Houston philanthropists Rich and Nancy Kinder announced plans to give $50 million to the Houston Parks Board for the Bayou Greenways 2020 Project, an ambitious plan to connect greenspaces along the city's bayous and create new parkland.

The donation, made through the Kinder Foundation, is the largest donation in the history of Houston’s park system and one of the largest grants to a public greenspace in the United States.

The Bayou Greenways 2020 Project will create 1,500 acres of parkland within the city and ultimately connect 150 miles of trails along nine Houston bayous.

The Bayou Greenways 2020 Project will create 1,500 acres of parkland within the city and ultimately connect 150 miles of trails (80 new miles connected to 70 existing miles of trails) along nine Houston bayous including White Oak, Brays, Sims, Hunting, Halls, Greens and Buffalo bayous, as well as Cypress and Clear Creek.

The ambitious project is funded through a public-private partnership. The city of Houston is pitching in $100 million, which voters approved in a bond referendum last November. The Houston Parks Board has committed to raising a matching $115 million. In addition to the $50 million Kinder donation, $21 million has been committed by the Houston Endowment, The Wortham Foundation, The Fondren Foundation, the Brown Foundation, multiple federal agencies and individual donors.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the donation was contingent on Houston City Council approval to turn over maintenance of the park lands to a nonprofit group to ensure that they are adequately kept up. In last week's session, city council approved the agreement authorizing the Houston Parks Board to oversee maintenance of the bayou trails with public monies. Under the arrangement, the newspaper reports, the city will pay the park board up to $10 million a year for upkeep of the signature park system.

“Bayou Greenways 2020 will complete the 100-year-old vision of city planner Arthur Comey and many like-minded leaders who saw the potential benefits of integrating Houston’s waterways into our recreational system. I would like to thank the Kinders for their generosity and commitment to the future of Houston,” Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement.

In a lengthy press release, officials listed the project segments that are slated to begin by the end of 2014:

·         Along Brays Bayou:
o    75th Street trailhead, Forest Hill ramp and Lawndale to OST  (under construction)
o    Mason Park Bridge & connections (Winter 2014)
o    University of Houston Bridge  & connections (Winter 2014)
o    OST to MLK (Summer 2014)
·         Along Buffalo Bayou:
o    Travis to Main (Winter 2013)
·         Along Halls Bayou:
o    Tidwell to Bretshire Drive and Hirsh to US 59 (Winter 2014)
·         Along Hunting Bayou:
o    Hutcheson Park to Mickey Leeland Park (Winter 2014)
·         Along Sims Bayou:
o    Reveille Park to Stuart Park (Spring 2014)
o    Milby Park to I-45 (Spring 2014)
o    S Post Oak to Hillcroft (Spring 2014)
·         Along White Oak Bayou:
o    Shepherd to West 11th Street (Fall 2013)
o    Connect Heritage Trail to Main Street at White Oak Bayou; connect Heritage Trail along Pinckney to Main Street; connect Heritage Trail to Hogg Park (Spring 2014)
o    MKT Trail East to MKT Trail West – (Spring 2014)
o    Antoine to Alabonson (Spring 2014)
o    Alabonson to  Hollister (Spring 2014)

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