Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its innovative practices in community engagement and fundraising, Hermann Park has been named a Frontline Park.
“Broad community support has been vital to the renaissance of Hermann Park. Volunteers have been vital to every aspect — from guiding the planning and construction process to devoting over 20,000 hours each year to caring for the Park,” said Doreen Stoller, Executive Director of Hermann Park Conservancy. “We are grateful to the City parks Alliance for recognizing the value of community engagement in the public-private partnerships that have created magic in so many urban parks.”
In 1914, Houston industrialist and real estate investor George Hermann gifted 285 acres of land to the city to create a new park. Along with Sam Houston Park, this green space was one of the first to be managed by the newly formed Parks and Recreation Department. Over the years, the park has grown to encompass 445 acres of the city, and features amenities like a golf course, the Houston Zoo, a lake, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Japanese Garden, and a very popular mini-train.
Hermann Park Conservancy (formerly the Friends of Hermann Park), an organization dedicated to restoring, maintaining, and improving the park, was created in response to the park’s decline due to lack of sufficient public funding. In 1992, the group commissioned a master plan for the park, created by Hanna Olin Partnership of Philadelphia. The master plan was adopted by Houston City Council in 1995 and has served as a guide for renovations and enhancements ever since. Many projects detailed in the master plan are part of the Conservancy’s centennial campaign aimed for completion during the park’s 100th birthday in 2014. Centennial Campaign projects include the renovation of the Grand Gateway, the Park’s historic main entrance, and the renovation of the garden center into the McGovern Centennial Gardens, both planned for completion this year. Also part of the master plan were goals of stewardship and volunteerism, which lead to the Conservancy’s robust volunteer, reforestation, and maintenance programs to supplement the work of the Parks Department. To date, in partnership with the City of Houston, over $115 million has been secured toward the $123 million Centennial Campaign.