The new mini-doc We Are the Fire (above) describes the rationale behind recent efforts to rip out the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center’s invasive understory of non-native plants. Like watching short films like this about Houston-area wildlife and semi-wildlife? Here’s another one, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife department, on urban pocket parks. 13 more movies — on topics ranging from red-cockaded woodpeckers and sea turtles to area tidal wetlands — will be included in the first annual Wild About Houston mini film festival, being put on by a collection of local wildlife and conservation organizations for 2 hours on the evening of August 23rd, at the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at the McGovern Gardens at Hermann Park.
Wild About Houston
The folks at Save Buffalo Bayou send over some before-and-after photos of the Memorial Park boat launch and companion drainage structure just east of where the stream crosses beneath Woodway Dr. The group says the canoe and kayak put-in spot, on a 30-acre section of the park once used as an archery range, had been slowly greened back up by native river plants following the area’s multi-year closure and workover by the Uptown TIRZ, which involved some de-treeing work and the planting of some contractor-friendly non-native grasses on the newly reshaped slope.
Memorial Park director Jay Daniels told the group that the mowing was not planned, as park groups are currently trying to promote native plant growth in the park. Daniels said that he talked to a work group clearing some bayou access paths this weekend about removing some invasive Johnsongrass at the site; the conversation apparently led to some confusion, which led to mowing, which led to many folks being given a stern talking to.
Here’s a post-op look from July 2014 at the drainage setup (also intended to control bank erosion), partially covered in what appears to be eroding dirt and deposited sediment:
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Trimming the Johnsongrass
Love that rush of vertigo from driving up the entrance ramp at Hidalgo St. onto the southbound West Loop? Freeway thrill-seekers may have some new options in a few years. The above rendering of new elevated express lanes along the West Loop between I-10 and 59 made an appearance at last night’s TxDOT Open House, where plans for the proposed project were presented for public comment. The drawing faces southwest across the intersection of San Felipe and 610 toward the Williams Tower (far left), and shows the lanes flying high over the existing freeway.
TxDOT also showed schematics and cross sections of the proposed additions — which include previously-considered dedicated bus lanes elevated along the path of the feeder road, from just south of I-10 to the junction with Post Oak Blvd.
Drive through the cross sections below, from north to south:
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Up High in Uptown
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE’S OUR MEMORIAL PARK BYPASS? “This ramp will now allow more traffic to use Shepherd as an alternate to the freeway system. Thus creating longer delays for those who use surface roads to travel. What is sorely required is a road that would flyover Memorial Park adding a much needed way to travel from the inner loop north. Currently, the only options are the West Loop and Kirby/Shepherd. Both of which are overly congested at most times of the day. It doesn’t help that Shepherd is down to two lanes from four in stretch from Westheimer to Dallas while the city installs much needed storm drainage.” [jgbiggs, commenting on Your Upgrade from Shepherd Dr. to the North Fwy. Will Be Much Smoother Starting Today] Illustration: Lulu
Local designer Paul Kweton submits for reader review his proposed Bayou City-proud Memorial Park outdoor competition and training pool for swimmers and triathletes.
“The pool offers a 50m competition pool flanked on both sides with 100m training pools,” writes Kweton, who is also known as “Paulbaut.” Hence the functional Nazca Line-like proposal’s name: the H-TOWN Outdoor Pool.
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H Marks The Spot
Does this Mediterranean-ian home in Crestwood actually like its view of Memorial Park across the street — or not? Judging from the corner lot’s tree canopies and the 1999 home’s extensive use of plantation shutters, it’s a little hard to tell. When a new agency re-re-re-relisted it a month ago, the property’s asking price came to $1.7 million. A series of 3 previous listings dating back to March 2013 shows pricing efforts targeted $1.975 million at first, but backed down to $1.935 million in September 2013, $1.895 million in February 2014, and $1.795 million in April.
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Through the Slats
in this week’s Houston Press, writer Dianna Wray wades into the murky waters surrounding the Harris County Flood Control District’s plan to move and rebuild the banks of Buffalo Bayou where it winds between Memorial Park and the River Oaks Country Club. The method of “natural channel design” the district plans to use in the $6 million project is meant to keep the bayou in place, using downed trees instead of concrete. But weren’t bayous born to wiggle? “If the Army Corps of Engineers approves the Memorial Park Demonstration Project permit application,” Wray writes, “construction workers could move in by the end of this year, using heavy equipment and saws to reshape the bayou according to a pattern that should, if the method is successful, lock the waterway into a form it will hold for generations to come. If the effort fails, the entire project could be blown down the river by one heavy flood, leaving nothing but naked, unprotected soil where the last of an ancient forest once stood.”
Plan of Memorial Park Demonstration Project: Harris County Flood Control District
The Banks of River Oaks
WHAT’S BEST FOR BUFFALO BAYOU? Let it flow, or let it be? Environmentalists and the Harris County Flood Control District disagree — at least when it comes to the 1.5-mile stretch that contributes to the “jungly ecosystem” of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary in Memorial Park, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray. A “restoration” plan proposed by the flood controllers, explains Gray, “would change the bayou’s course in places, fill in an oxbow here, reinforce banks there, widen the bayou’s channel, raising and lowering landmasses and generally move an enormous amount of dirt. [They argue] that the proposed measures are desperately needed to reduce erosion and improve water quality.” They’d do it here as they did it at Meyer Park along Spring Creek, reports Gray. But the environmentalists don’t seem to consider that to have been a “restoration” project, really: “‘Look at that!” [Memorial Park Conservancy board member Katy Emde] told me, outraged, showing me a picture of Meyer Park on her phone. ‘There’s no diversity! It’s not natural! It’s not habitat! It’s horrifying.'” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of Hogg Bird Sanctuary: Bayou Shuttle
A reader who happened upon an outing of Blink stations at Memorial Park sends in this photo evidence that the commercial electric-vehicle chargers are multiplying. Two Blink stations at the nearby Houston Arboretum had been installed by the September 8th rollout of a city-wide drive-electric program. A total of 200 Blink-brand stations are being installed in the Houston area.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
The original greenhouse in Memorial Park — birthplace of thousands of plants sent regularly to city properties around town — lasted from 1946 until 3 years ago, though it was in bad shape even before Hurricane Ike blew away the makeshift plastic put in place of some missing windows. The new greenhouse — designed by local landscape architecture firm Clark Condon Associates, opened officially late last week, and paid for in part with federal hurricane-recovery funds — measures 8,600 sq. ft. and includes a cistern and automated watering and shading systems. A separate headhouse was also renovated as part of the project, and a brand-new prefab restroom set up nearby.
Photo: KUHF News
HOUSTON TREE MASSACRE BODY COUNT For full effect, Trees for Houston executive director Barry Ward counts the number of local trees expected to die and be removed over the next 2 years because of the recent drought: 66 million. (Okay, but how many of them will we get to carve up for mermaid and doggie sculptures?) That’s 10 percent of the greater Houston area’s branch-bearing population right there. At Memorial Park, 400 of approximately 1,000 close-to-dead trees have already been removed. More fun urban deforesting facts: Already, more trees have been destroyed by the drought than by Hurricane Ike. [Culturemap; watering hints] Photo: Houston Tomorrow