Houston Officials Draft Ordinance to Protect Natural Areas

With more than 50,000 acres of parkland, Houston is one of many cities to notice an increase in use of natural areas. Natural Resources Manager Kelly Ondracek is drafting a plan to protect the natural lands from development.

September 29, 2020, 10:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Houston Bayou

KENNY TONG / Shutterstock

The "Impacts of COVID-19 on American's Natural Areas," report, recently published by the Natural Areas Conservancy, shows "an observed increase, relative to previous years, in public use of urban natural areas since March 2020."

The report calls for a future in which access to natural areas in cities are supported and prioritized. Cinnamon Janzer reports that Houston, one of the cities surveyed, is taking the initiative to protect natural areas in the city's parkland from development. Officials have done so by "putting in sports fields or playgrounds or amphitheaters. Over the last year, Natural Resources Manager Kelly Ondracek and her team have been working to identify 7,000 acres of natural parkland across 25 parks that she hopes to protect through an upcoming city ordinance," says Janzer.

Ondracek noted increased support for the efforts thanks to increased natural area use since the onset of COVID-19.

"The ordinance would hopefully mark thousands acres of city parkland as nature preserves. This would mean that amenities like parking lots and buildings would be concentrated in certain areas of a park while a good portion of the rest is left undeveloped, creating natural habitat for wildlife and allowing for nature-friendly developments like bird-friendly lighting and trail signage," writes Janzer. 

Ondracek is in the process of planning a green stormwater system for and is hopeful that the ordinance will be passed by the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 in Next City

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