Creating a Brighter Future
Two major natural disasters, Hurricane Ike in 2008 and then a severe drought in the summer of 2011, significantly impacted the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. The result was a 50% loss of our tree canopy and subsequent encroachment of invasive species.
The hurricane and drought made apparent a pre-existing problem and highlighted the poor ecological condition of the Arboretum’s landscape. This created an opportunity to change the relationship of how we managed and viewed our grounds. It also created an opportunity to strengthen the educational mission by tying it to the site more directly.
Meanwhile, our educational programming had outgrown current facilities and we wanted to improve the Arboretum experience for both students and visitors.
Before implementing the Master Plan, the Arboretum conducted studies to look at existing vegetation, soils, topography, and hydrology. The studies found that higher areas with sandier soils were better for groups of trees called mottes, while lower areas with more clay were better for grassland systems. In areas with high tree loss, trees were assessed based on species, age, size, health and spacing. Larger trees in suitable locations were kept, as were dead, standing trees which would provide wildlife habitat. We removed selected trees in low lying areas to increase light to the forest floor and promote healthy grasslands. Many of the trees that were removed were repurposed on site. The resulting landscape changes increased diversity and created a more resilient, native landscape better able to withstand climatic changes.
To complete our award-winning Master Plan, we engaged a nationally recognized collaborative team composed of Design Workshop, Lake Flato Architects, Reed Hilderbrand, and Main Street Design. The Master Plan was formulated between 2013-2016 and implementation took place between 2017-2021. More than $26 million was raised to complete the project.
Elements of the Master Plan
- Construction of the new 610 Entrance and Parking Loop
- A new Conservation Center to support our conservation and restoration initiatives
- Renovation of the existing Woodway Entrance with expanded parking
- Creation of two educational wetlands that double as storm water retention and irrigation
- Landscape restoration of the northern third of the property
- New trail experiences including signage, ADA accessible trails, and educational Field Stations
- Renovation of the existing Nature Center building to expand educational programming
- Construction of a new Administration Building to house staff and volunteers
- A state-of-the-art Nature Playscape
To a view a list of Capital Campaign donors, please scroll to the bottom of our Current Donors page.