News and Events

2014 Wrap-Up and Looking Forward to 2015

Just a quick note to let you know what we’ve accomplished in 2014, and what we’re looking forward to in 2015. If you’d like to donate to support our work, please go here:

http://worthamparkfriends.org/donations/

Your contribution is tax-deductible and every donation helps!

2014 Wrap-Up

It was a great year for Wortham Park Friends, with many ups and downs, but victory in the end. In keeping with our goal of being transparent and accessible, meetings were continuous and I made many presentations to civic clubs and civic associations showing the golf course’s architectural drawings to the community and golfers.

In March 2014, we hosted our first ever fundraiser which was a great success. In April, we submitted our official business plan and capital campaign plan to the City of Houston after a public call for proposals was issued. While our plan wasn’t considered outright, the end result was a slam dunk for Wortham Park GC supporters: In October, the Mayor and City Council unanimously voted to renovate Gus Wortham Park Golf Course, thereby sweeping it out of the grasp of the Houston Botanic Garden.

And while that was playing out, WPF achieved another of its dreams: It gained 501(c)(3) public charity status, retroactive to its inception in September 2013. This allows us to operate as a public charity and empowers us to do so much more. Since that time, after meetings with several council members, we have reached out to the Houston Golf Association to partner with them to further our mutual goals of preserving, protecting and renovating one of the City’s greatest assets, and the East End’s crown jewel!

Plans for 2015

I will continue to be the face and voice of Gus Wortham Park Golf Course and Wortham Park Friends plans to work alongside the HGA to restore Gus Wortham to its former glory, with the assistance of the community which has supported our efforts along the way.

Thank you so much for your support, and with your help, we can make 2015 a banner year for Wortham Park Friends and the Gus Wortham Park Golf Course!

Thanks again, and happy holidays!

RENI, Founder and President
Wortham Park Friends, Inc.
http://www.worthamparkfriends.org
reni@worthamparkfriends.org

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Much to be Thankful For

Wortham Park Friends was invited to Honorable Judge Armando Rodriguez’s Thanksgiving luncheon this past Friday.

Wortham Park Friends rocks and we’re getting congratulations from around the world for winning our cause!

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L-R, Honorable Armando Rodriguez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 6, Place 1; RENI, Wortham Park Friends Founder & President; Robert Gallegos, District I City Councilman; and James Estrada, an East End businessman.

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L-R, Justice Rodriguez’ Chief Clerk; Honorable Armando Rodriguez, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 6, Place 1; RENI, Wortham Park Friends Founder & President; Robert Gallegos, District I City Councilman; and James Estrada, an East End businessman.

Message From Our Founder and President

I may not be liked a whole lot by the Houston Botanic Garden, but it sure feels good to retain my title as the “Undefeated Rebel!” Saving the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi has been a battle that reared its ugly head in 2007 and ended with a unanimous vote by City Council and the Mayor last week to keep the 107-year old historic golf course just that: a golf course, and to renovate it, rather than bulldoze it. The last two years were the toughest because we had to do more work than ever; forming the 501(c)3 non profit, social media director for the website, the website itself, and giving presentations and meeting with elected officials. I can’t tell you how happy we are and how endearing it is right now hearing from people around the world because we not only saved a historic golf course and a piece of history, we also saved an invaluable piece of land and green space for wildlife to enjoy for the generations to come! I hope you succeed in getting your dream no matter where life takes you. On behalf of WPF, we want to thank you for your support and believing in our mission to Preserve and Protect Gus Wortham Park Golf Course.

RENI
President & Founder of Wortham Park Friends

Another Small Victory for Gus Wortham!

This morning, the City Council entertained Non-Consent Agenda Item 33:

RESOLUTION 33.
RESOLUTION of the City Council of the City of Houston supporting rehabilitation of Gus Wortham Park through a Golf Course or a Botanical Garden

was passed unanimously in favor of RENOVATION of Gus Wortham Park Golf Course! It’s nice to know that this endeavor, on which we’ve been working so hard, has the community’s — and the City’s — full support. Onward and upward!

Listen to the discussion and vote here: http://houstontx.swagit.com/play/11052014-512.

And the Houston Chronicle weighed in with this short piece:

Houston City Council gave a green light Wednesday for Mayor Annise Parker’s team to continue negotiating with a local golf nonprofit pursuing the restoration of city-owned Gus Wortham Golf Course, rather than turn the historic links into a botanic garden.

City officials had balked at the Houston Golf Association’s plan to take over, not only Gus Wortham, but four municipal courses, including the prized Memorial Park course, one of only two city-owned courses to turn a profit.

The nonprofit’s board met this week, however, and voted to pursue only the 151-acre East End course.

‘There needed to be a clear public statement,’ Parker said. ‘We were at an impasse, so I appreciate council’s jumping into this.’

Houston Chronicle Update

The city is leaning toward issuing a new request for proposals still focused on preserving the Wortham course for golf in the East End…. This morning, the Houston Chronicle ran a short piece about the Mayor’s Report. The City is understandably upset that the Houston Golf Association attempted to change the game on them, first agreeing to undertake the renovation of Gus Wortham, and then insisting that the deal include the other municipal golf courses, including Memorial. HGA may have shot itself in the foot with that overreaching maneuver. On the other hand, Wortham Park Friends has only ever been interested on one golf course, and one golf course only: Gus Wortham Park Golf Course. Are you listening, Mayor Parker?

Mayor Parker’s Report on Gus Wortham and Glenbrook Golf Courses … And a Bit of Clearing the Air, Too

The Mayor’s Report on Gus Wortham and Glenbrook Golf Courses, held Wednesday morning, October 29, 2014, is available for viewing here. The City is still in negotiations with the Houston Golf Association about taking over management of Gus Wortham. But now the HGA wants not only Gus Wortham, but several other municipal golf courses, including Memorial. The City is not interested in handing over Memorial to the HGA so it looks, for now at least, like those negotiations have reached an impasse.

The City is now thinking about opening up Requests for Proposals for Gus Wortham, which will basically track the contract that the City is currently negotiating with the HGA.

WPF is a 501(c) non profit in good standing with the State of Texas, so we are poised to move forward when the call for RFPs is issued. We submitted a business plan to the City of Houston back in April 2014 when the City called for submission of plans for Gus Wortham. We continue to receive donations for our cause despite the fact that we’ve been laying low for the past several months while all these negotiations have been taking place all around us.

WPF, in one iteration or another, has been in the community since 2007. Although not formally organized at the time, we were able — with the help of the East End community and the public at large — to keep the Dynamo Soccer team from taking over the historic golf course for use as a soccer practice field. We have been actively involved in lobbying to protect and preserve the now 107-year old golf course and keep it away from the Houston Botanic Garden.

We took a step back in April, yet again, when it seemed that the City flatly refused to entertain our submitted business plan and continued to refer to us, variously, as “concerned” and “passionate” citizens, never recognizing that we formalized our business organization so that the entire community and beyond would take us more seriously. Even though we were able to present, at a City Council meeting, emails showing that the Houston Parks Board and the Houston Parks Department would undertake fundraising (not WPF), the Mayor and Council Member Robert Gallegos continue to incorrectly represent that WPF has not raised any money and have done nothing to further the goal of preserving Gus Wortham. That is patently false.

In this video, you will hear the Mayor mentioning that besides the HGA, there is no other “entity of stature” willing to come forward and take on fundraising efforts and to whom the general, philanthropic community could send their contributions. If a 501(c) that has been in the local community since 2007 and which has been working consistently, non-stop, for over a year, ever since the Houston Botanic Garden first cast its eye on Gus Wortham, is not an ‘entity of stature,” then I don’t know what is.

WPF is and has always been the face and voice of Gus Wortham Golf Course.

No Transparency at City Hall

Wortham Park Friends and the golfers and  community it represents in Houston are being kept in the dark about the Mayor’s plans for Gus Wortham Park Golf Course.  On May 22, 2014, Wortham Park Friends sent a letter (attached) to Mayor Parker and City Council inquiring about the steps needed to move forward with plans to renovate Gus Wortham Park Golf Course.   This was done after WPF submitted its business plan as the Mayor had publicly requested back in March 2014.  This is the response received from CM Robert Gallegos to our May 22 letter:

Begin forwarded message:
From: CNL District I
Date: June 4, 2014 at 11:20:34 AM AKDT
To: RENI
Cc: Olive-Nishioka, Leah – CNL,”Santamaria, Daniel – CNL
Subject: RE: Request For Action
Reni,
While we are delighted to begin discussions on a plan to renovate our historic Gus Wortham Golf Course, we have not yet reached an agreement.
When we reach an agreement and have something to work with, there will be plenty of opportunity for broader community input. As I have stressed over the past five months, it is of utmost importance for the community to be involved to ensure the success of this project.
I am excited about where we are and I appreciate everything you, Wortham Park Friends and so many community leaders have done to help get us to this point, and I welcome your pledge to assist in the future.
Robert Gallegos
Houston Council Member
District I

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