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Community Hoping a Botanical Garden Is the Answer to Revitalize Houston's East End

There's been a lot of heavy discussion over plans to build a botanic garden on the East End, with a likely home being the Gus Wortham Golf Course. It all came to a head at a public forum hosted by the city late last month when passions collided over where to place the multi-million garden space.

Community members and business leaders have followed up on that meeting and showed up to the previous two city council public comment sessions to express support for a botanical garden. While opponents of transforming the historic golf course have been muted, this afternoon, one community member got his say.

Spence Gaskin shared notes about that original meeting with SwampLot.com. It was a meeting where he said the community was caught off-guard by the plans to forgo any work to rehab or revamp Gus Wortham Golf Course. Originally, it discussed that the course could possibly be halved, while adding a botanical garden to one end. Now, it seems the push is for resources to go into a brand new botanical space costing around $45 million. There's also a chance the garden could end up Glenbrook Park.

Gaskin tells Hair Balls the pro-golf course folks aren't against a garden, they just don't want to lose the golf course. Describing the March 31 community forum, he said, "Some people questioned the botanical association and were worried that if it failed, what's going to happen to our community." The garden would be located at Wayside Drive and Lawndale Street.

The folks who want to see a botanic garden take over the golf course see it as a needed amenity for the East End, and others see it as an anchor for the development of tree-lined street cafes some time in the near future. The city is still studying any possible development in the area.

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Robert Gallegos, the councilman for the area said he's looking at all the options, "I've been doing my due diligence to find the best spot for the botanical garden. I am for a botanical garden in District I. The question is where to place it. Gus Wortham and Glenn Brook are both in the East End, whatever location it happens it's going to be in the East End."

The Eastwood Civic Association in the area also backs it, according to John Jacob, the group's president. "Renewing Gus Wortham will not be a game-changer there," he said. "Harrisburg [Street] and that neighborhood have the bones for transformation," he said, citing the Magnolia light rail stop that could help create a destination, connecting the East End to downtown.

Whatever comes from this debate about green space, one thing is for sure, the city isn't forking over a dime. But we'll continue to follow how this develops.

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