Hermann Park, presented to the City of Houston by George Hermann in 1914, is Houston's most historically significant public green space. Over the years, the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and one of the first desegregated public golf courses in the United States all have added to the Park's importance as a recreational destination.
By the late 1980's however, due to insufficient public resources and very high public attendance, the Park became rundown and entered a state of disrepair. In response, a group of committed and visionary Houstonians formed the nonprofit organization known as the Friends of Hermann Park (FHP) to encourage the development of more attractive, usable green space in Hermann Park and to promote the restoration of the Park to its originally intended standards of beauty. Today, Hermann Park is a 445-acre urban landmark owned by the City of Houston .
In 1995, FHP adopted a master plan for Hermann Park that has provided a “blueprint” for all subsequent renovations and enhancements to the Park. In 2004, FHP changed its name to the Hermann Park Conservancy (HPC) to reflect an institutional and permanent commitment to stewardship of Hermann Park ’s natural resources and physical infrastructure.
In 1993, FHP commissioned a master plan for Hermann Park from Hanna/Olin Partnership of Philadelphia, a landscape architectural group recognized internationally for the excellence of its work in public parks around the United States and Europe. This Master Plan, created in consultation with the City of Houston and various stakeholders, was adopted in 1997 by Houston City Council.
In July 2004, FHP changed its name to the Hermann Park Conservancy (HPC) to reflect its expanded mission in park stewardship.
HPC continues to build upon its successful working partnership with the City of Houston whereby HPC funds and manages the design of projects to be undertaken in the Park, and then shares the construction cost of these projects with the City. In the last ten years, under this award-winning partnership, HPC and the City have spent over $32 million to enhance and restore Hermann Park.
HPC's successful public-private partnership with the City has resulted in the following major capital projects:
The completion of the Heart of the Park construction, which include the Molly Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool, the Molly Ann Smith and Sara H. and John H. Lindsey Plazas, and the enlargement, renovation and beautification of McGovern Lake to include three new islands as well as bird and wetland habitat area.
The completion of a new West Entrance facility and plaza for the Houston Zoo.
The beautification and re-alignment of North MacGregor Street to improve access and circulation in and around the Park and the Texas Medical Center.
The acquisition of additional land and capital improvements to Bayou Parkland, an 80-acre area in Hermann Park along Brays Bayou being "reclaimed" for healthier activities and used extensively for stewardship programs.
The creation and implementation of extensive stewardship programs, including Field Studies 101, Natural Guard, and Scouting Around Hermann Park.
The completion of the expansion and renovation of Miller Outdoor Theatre.
The coordination of the comprehensive renovation of the Hermann Park Golf Course (completed by BSL Golf Corporation).
The coordination of the Hermann Park Miniature Train track expansion.
The planting of over 2,400 new trees.
The park-wide installation of new park furnishings such as light fixtures, benches and trash cans.
In its primary Park stewardship role, HPC also has led highly successful and collaborative efforts such as the Access and Parking Charette that resulted in 18 practical recommendations that have been adopted for implementation.
Another park-wide initiative is HPC's Maintenance and Operations Master Plan Study for Hermann Park - the first such comprehensive study ever for this flagship park of Houston. The study identified many concerns for preserving and protecting Hermann Park, including a gap of 20,000 maintenance hours for the Park. In response, HPC hired a Manager of Volunteer Programs. The results speak for themselves - in 2004 over 1,200 volunteers provided over 14,000 hours of volunteer service in the park.