Houston mayor stands firmly against park privatization: 'I want our parks to be accessible'

Daniela Hurtado Image
Thursday, February 15, 2024
Houston mayor stands firmly against park privatization
Houston Mayor John Whitmire said the parks are becoming unaffordable, and there's a fix in the works, but you may have to pay up.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There are more than 250 parks across the city of Houston. Some are less than a tenth of an acre in size, all the way up to Memorial Park, which is more than 1,500 acres.

"The parks are becoming unaffordable 'cause we've lost the city, and Houstonians have lost control of them," Mayor John Whitmire said during a council meeting last week. "If I told you what's fixing to be proposed to charge to take pictures in Memorial Park, you wouldn't believe me."

It's unclear what this proposal will entail and, if approved, how it will be enforced. Park visitors like Sandra Williams can't wrap their heads around the concept.

"God didn't charge us to plant the trees and have the trees grow. Aren't they free to see or to look at?" parkgoer Sandra Williams said.

Aside from the possibility of charging for photos at Memorial Park, a bigger topic came up in the city council.

"Do you have a position on privatizing city parks?" Mayor Whitmire asked during city council last week.

In a statement this week, Whitmire said he does not plan to privatize parks and says he is strongly against parks charging fees to the public.

"I want our parks to be accessible and affordable to the least among us. I am concerned about the fees charged, outsourcing, and selling naming rights. Our parks belong to the public, and they should remain accessible and affordable for the least among us," Whitmire said.

As for the conversation about the potential to charge for photos at Memorial Park specifically, the proposal hasn't been officially put on the table.

ABC13 contacted the conservancy to find out how this would work and if the proposal includes charging everyone or just businesses.

The mayor's office says it was mentioned as a part of the fees, including renting space.

Whitmire's office says the mayor is reviewing all aspects of the parks, including conservancies.

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