Houston's revenue cap a major reason it spends the least for parks than other US cities, study shows

Chaz Miller Image
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Houston parks receiving the least funding out of big cities in study
The Kinder Institute is revealing something slightly stunning about the city of Houston in terms of how much it spends for its outdoor spaces.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The City of Houston spends less money on parks than any other major city in the country, according to a new study from Rice University's Kinder Institute of Urban Research.

"Funding Houston's Parks and Greenspace," which was released this month, said the Houston Parks and Recreation Department receives about $32 per-resident to spend on parks each year.

The study said the same agency in Austin receives $150 per-resident each year.

"Of the 13 cities the Trust for Public Land identified as having more than 1 million residents, Houston's per-resident spending on its primary public parks agency ranked last," the study said.

The City of Houston has a revenue cap, which means it can only receive so many dollars via property taxes.

According to the "Funding Houston's Parks and Greenspace" study, that's a major reason why the city's parks and rec department receives relatively little money from the city.

It added that greenspaces do receive public funds outside of that department, as well as private funds, but those three sources together only add up to a total of $94 per-person each year.

Houstonians whom ABC13 spoke with at Memorial Park on Tuesday morning said that number is too low.

"I feel like it would beautify the city," Michelle White said when asked why more should be spent on Houston parks.

The study added that Houston trails only New York City when it comes to receiving major private donations for greenspace projects, but added that those donations are generally spent on specific projects.

"Those private dollars, while incredibly important, are being directed typically at those destination parks," Dr. Daniel Potter of the Kinder Institute said.

Discovery Green, Hermann Park, and Memorial Park are examples of destination parks that have benefitted from private donations.

Additionally, the study from the Kinder Institute found that two-thirds of Houstonians would support paying $2 a month to the city to go towards parks and greenspaces.

Kenneth Allen, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department director, sent ABC13 the following statement:

The Houston Parks and Recreation Department manages almost 40,000 acres of parkland and greenspace, community centers, facilities, and operations staffing. Working with our green groups we create a park footprint in neighborhoods all across Houston, and that makes for a viable park system. The results of the Kinder Study appear to indicate that Houstonians are willing to provide some financial support for their neighborhood parks, which is evidence of the huge value parks have to communities. Regarding the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, any additional support we can assemble will only have a positive effect on our continued efforts to support and maintain the City of Houston's 382 parks and greenspaces.

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SEE ALSO: Memorial Park 101: The story behind Houston's beloved park

Four million visitors a year, home to one of the most popular running trails in the country, and twice the size of New York's Central Park - Memorial Park has something for everyone!