Exploration Green Conservancy was selected as a Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler in 2020. During each Conservation Wrangler program cycle, Texan by Nature provides up to 6 projects with 12-18 months of tailored support in the form of program management, strategic planning, marketing messaging, metrics capture and analysis, professional content production, and partnership development – whatever is needed to accelerate the project. The following blog showcases highlights from the Exploration Green Case Study: Integrated, Solution-Oriented Urban Green Space that is a result and deliverable of Exploration Green Conservancy’s involvement in Texan by Nature’s Conservation Wrangler program.
In highly industrialized areas across Texas and the United States, mass development has rendered once beneficial urban infrastructure obsolete. Many opportunities for creating urban green space exist through repurposing underutilized urban infrastructure. For example, dedicated groups in Houston, Texas, are transforming a defunct golf course into an integrated stormwater detention center, recreation space, and conservation area. This project, Exploration Green, provides critical ecosystem services tailored to this region’s needs, receiving an outpouring of community support.
Underutilized urban infrastructure, such as neglected neighborhood parks or former golf courses, presents an opportunity for reclamation into urban green space for conservation, native habitat, and community resilience. Ecosystem services provided by urban green space strengthen both ecological and human community resilience. These ecosystem services can include carbon sequestration, pollution reduction, cooler temperatures, stormwater mitigation, water purification, groundwater replenishment, and restoration of native habitat. Green space also helps its nearby residents by encouraging physical activity, supporting psychological well-being, and increasing property values.
Exploration Green presents a model example of a collaboratively-designed and community-executed urban green space, solving a myriad of local issues, ranging from environmental to economic.
In Southeast Houston, dedicated groups are transforming a defunct golf course into an innovative stormwater detention center. Exploration Green provides an integrated, natural solution for catastrophic seasonal flooding, holding up to 500-million gallons of stormwater while also serving as a nature preserve and recreation area. Located near the NASA Johnson Space Center, this 200-acre urban green space provides the community with countless opportunities to explore, offering 40 acres of both wetlands and permanent lakes providing a home to over 1,000 native species.
Exploration Green is a joint project of The Exploration Green Conservancy (EGC) and Clear Lake City Water Authority. EGC is a volunteer-driven nonprofit dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Exploration Green – a permanently-protected, 200-acre green space for conservation, recreation, and flood mitigation in Southeast Houston.
- Urban green space takes many forms, such as community gardens, community forests, green roofs, wetlands, and green schoolyards
- Ecosystem services provided by urban green space include carbon sequestration, pollution reduction, cooler temperatures, stormwater mitigation, water purification, groundwater replenishment, and restoration of native habitat
- Beyond environmental benefits, green space encourages physical activity, supports psychological well-being, and increases property values for nearby
- Nature-based solutions provided by urban green space help to build environmental resilience and integrity
- Exploration Green has provided critical ecosystem services tailored to regional needs, including flood mitigation and native wildlife habitat restoration
- Exploration Green presents a model example of a collaboratively-designed and community-executed urban green space, solving a myriad of local issues, ranging from environmental to economic
- The partially completed project protected at least 150 homes during Hurricane Harvey and completely mitigated flooding during Imelda. When complete, the project will protect over 200 area homes and businesses during a 15+ inch rain event
Project Impact Numbers
- 500-million-gallons of stormwater detention
- 1,000 community volunteers donating 20,000+ hours (current total as of August 2021)
- Recreation and education for more than 500,000 individuals in Southeast Houston
- 6 miles of paved trails
- 2 athletic practice fields
- $300 million saved from flood damages caused by all 8+ inches of rainfall in a 15-year period
- $120 million increase in property values for the community
- 200-acres of urban greenspace
- 150,000 wetland plants providing stormwater filtration and carbon sequestration
- 40-acres of both wetlands and permanent lakes
- 5,000 native trees
- 1,000+ native insects, plants, and wildlife species
Exploration Green formed from the vision of community members and continues to flourish due to their ongoing support. Exploration Green has over 1,000 recurring volunteers that have donated over 20,000+ hours of their time (current total as of August 2021). Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds help control costs and maintain community support for the project. The Conservancy works to engage volunteers for both planting and land upkeep, but also operational tasks via committees, such as fundraising, outreach, amenities, finance, and events.
Exploration Green Conservancy has extensive experience, expertise, and great enthusiasm for groups that may aspire to create an urban green space in their community. This project is worthy of replication, and EGC looks forward to sharing knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned with others aiming to execute a similar project, whether it be for a nature-based flood mitigation space, an urban wildlife habitat, or anything in between. Check out the full case study to learn more about Exploration Green’s process on pages 10-22.