The Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center owes its existence to a remarkable grass-roots effort, as outlined in the timeline below.
Formation of the Friends of Bellaire Parks, Inc., now Nature Discovery Center, Inc.
The organization raised funds for the acquisition of a million dollar 3.75-acre Henshaw estate, now Russ Pitman Park. Volunteer labor and over 400 in-kind donations made development of the park and renovation of the historic house possible.
Evergreen Park was completed.
February 20, 1984
Fundraising was complete and Russ Pitman Park was named.
March 31, 1985
The Dedication Ceremony for Russ Pitman Park was held and outdoor nature programs in the park began. The Nature Discovery Center evolved from nature walks and classes taught by volunteers in the park, even before the house renovation was complete.
Renovations to the Henshaw House began.
“Sneak Previews” of the Nature Discovery Center began with weekend programming. The Center was not yet open daily because fire code restrictions necessitated installation of a fire escape on the Henshaw House first.
The Center opened to the public 6 days a week! Once the fire escape was installed they had the green light to open the Center daily. The first full-time staff member was employed.
The Nature Discovery Center received the first ever Flight STAR (Securing Tomorrow’s Avian Resources) certificate of recognition from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for its efforts to educate the public about birds, and Russ Pitman Park was designated as a site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
“Keep Texas Beautiful” awarded the Nature Discovery Center first place in the Civic Organizations Category for developing and maintaining Russ Pitman Park.
The Center commenced its first capital initiative, the Gateway Project.
Today five full-time and four part-time staff members offer exciting and engaging hands-on programs that stimulate interest in nature, science, and learning. Through classes, exhibits, and field investigations for children of all ages, families, teachers, and educators (at the Center, in schools, and in public libraries) we reach 40,000+ people each year, about 75% of whom are children.
A Brief History of the Nature Discovery Center and Russ Pitman Park
Hana Ginzbarg, a refugee from Czechoslovakia, came to the U.S. in 1943. While pursuing a PhD in chemistry, she met and married a fellow Purdue graduate student, Arthur Ginzbarg. In 1948 the Ginzbargs moved to Houston where Hana’s life mission took form.
Hana soon came to appreciate the rich natural paradise along Houston’s bayous which she explored with her family. She sought to preserve this natural heritage for both current and future generations. She was a major player in founding Armand Bayou Park and Nature Center and led the planning and creation of an “adventure playground” in Evergreen Park based on ones she had seen in the Netherlands.
In 1981 the four-acre Henshaw Estate was advertised for sale. Hana visualized transforming the lush grounds into a green oasis where young and old could share and appreciate nature. She and her committee organized a house to house canvas and wrote hundreds of letters seeking support. With a matching grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife, the park site was purchased and turned over to the City of Bellaire. Hana then recruited volunteers, union apprentices and court appointed workers to develop the park and to renovate a 60-year-old dilapidated house for a community center using donated materials.
Hana’s vision for the community center included a place where children and families could come to learn about nature through hands-on discovery. The Discovery Room at the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington served as the initial inspiration for what has evolved into the Nature Discovery Center.
Hana was a scientist with a humanitarian and ecological bent. She believed in the ability and duty of individuals to affect and shape their environment for common good. Herself a volunteer, she inspired an army of volunteers with her contagious enthusiasm.