Green Space

Green Space GraphicThe City of Houston parks system encompasses 38,394 acres. In addition to these city parks, residents are only a short drive from many Texas State Parks. Outdoor activities available at these parks include hiking, kayaking, biking, birding, camping and more. To find the best places for your favorite activity visit the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD).

Houston stands out among large metropolitan areas for its vast amount of vegetative cover. From the banks of bayous to stretches of prairie, the east Texas area is filled with a diverse mix of forest, aquatic and grassland habitats. Nestled in between these ecosystems is the City of Houston. Both HPARD and the Mayor's Office value these green spaces. There are several city projects and partnerships aimed at increasing city parkland and improving the quality of these spaces.

Gragg Park, located at 2999 S. Wayside Drive, is home to Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) headquarters. With encouragement from Director Joe Turner, HPARD's Green Space Management team, led by Deputy Director Abel Gonzales, transformed the campus courtyard into a natural area complete with native plantings, a water feature, and bird feeders to support wildlife. The courtyard project was the first step in the naturalization of Gragg Park, and it is being used to more fully engage and inform HPARD staff and citizens about the advantages of incorporating natural landscapes within the urban environment. Plans are underway to install additional natural demonstration areas in Gragg Park to further enhance the department's environmental education efforts in the Houston area. For more information, please contact Dee Howell at 713.864.9507.

The Trust for Public Land indicated that of the nation's 10 most populous cities, none had more total park space than Houston with 56,405 acres. Houston 's 27.2 acres per 1,000 residents ranks second only to San Diego with 35.6 acres per 1,000 residents with nearly 45,000 total acres within its limits. Houston is well over the national average of 18.8 acres per 1,000 residents. The survey includes parks operated within the city by Harris County , the Houston Parks Board, Fort Bend County , the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the City Parks and Recreation Department.

The Adopt-an-Esplanade program converts vegetative cover from grass to native trees. This move away from a landscape which requires gasoline powered engines for edging and mowing will not only eliminate air toxics emissions, it will also benefit the community in multiple other ways. Benefits include water savings, cost savings for labor and equipment related to mowing, carbon sequestration, and reduction of the urban heat island effect.

Thanks to established ordinances and resolutions designed to protect Houston's tree canopy, HPARD's Urban Forestry Division in partnership with Trees For Houston's NeighborWoods volunteer tree planting program have planted more than 14,000 trees over the last three years. Trees provide important health benefits by cleansing and cooling the air, which contributes to our quality of life. A study completed by Leon Younger PROS in December 2003, recommended that HPARD develop and complete a citywide GIS tree inventory over the next six years. The goal of this program is to evaluate the value of Houston's tree canopy and manage the asset lifecycle of our urban forest.

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After the inventory is completed in an area, trees that have been identified as hazardous are targeted for removal. Additionally, future tree planting spaces are recorded and plantings can be scheduled with community groups to aid in preserving Houston's urban forest for future generations to enjoy. HPARD was recently awarded a Texas Forest Service Urban Forestry Partnership Grant to begin the first phase of Houston's Urban Tree Count program. For more information, please contact Victor Cordova at 713.867.0379.

The Parks Department is currently taking public comments regarding the Parks Master Plan. Send comments to

Urban Heat Islands are a phenomenon in which urban ambient air temperatures are 2°F to 10°F (1°C to 6°C) hotter than nearby rural areas. These conditions are created through the use of dark colored roofing and paving materials, and the removal of trees and vegetation.

These elevated temperatures can impact communities by increasing peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution levels, and heat-related illness and mortality.

Fortunately, there are measures available to reduce the negative effects of heat islands.

More information on urban heat islands can be found at:

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