07/24/17 11:30am

WHAT’S BLOCKING THE BRAYS BAYOU TRAIL That sign posted just west of Chimney Rock declaring that the Brays Bayou trail “connects 31 miles of uninterrupted, off-street, multi-use trails and greenspace from the Ship Channel to George Bush Park and the Addicks-Barker Reservoir” is more aspirational than accurate at this point, a Houston Parks Board official admits to David Olinger. (“It got ahead of itself, let’s put it that way.”) Olinger set out to walk the supposed marathon-distance-plus continuum, but found it blocked and interrupted by construction zones, an unidentified fork to a neighboring bayou, and dead ends, including some fronting 7-miles-worth of land adjacent to Arthur Storey Park the parks board is still in the process of acquiring: “I tried walking west from Kirkwood and waded into knee-high weeds. I tried walking north on Kirkwood and found no trail. I drove up and down Kirkwood, searching in vain for Arthur Storey Park. Finally I consulted a map — and found the park about 2.5 miles northeast from the westbound Kirkwood dead end.” The Bayou Greenways trail system is expected to connect that length of Brays Bayou by 2020. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Brays Bayou trail: Jan Buchholtz  

07/10/17 11:45am

THE TIME MY BROTHER AND HIS FRIENDS ALMOST BLEW UP A GAS PIPELINE IN THE BAYOU One Houston summer in the early 1960s: “My brother and his friends were playing, pretending they were WWII soldiers and they were running around shooting fake machine guns and then they would go over and jump in the bayou pretending it was a foxhole. And I went over and I heard them talking . . . they were going to build their own bomb. And I told them you know you better not do that. . . . The next thing I know I see them in the garage and they’ve got a bunch of my dad’s leftover firecrackers and they’re splitting them open and pouring them into this big prescription bottle. I tried to find my mother. And she ended up being next door. When I ran next door I was standing in the backyard and I heard this loud boom and looked at where the explosion came from and it was right where my brother and his friends had been playing. I heard sirens in the distance and a helicopter started flying real low over the pipeline. . . . Shortly after that there was a knock at the door and it was the police. . . . they said that the magnitude of this explosion had blown an almost-6-ft.-deep hole right above the Shell gas pipeline [that ran along the bayou] and it could have blown up our whole neighborhood had it been a little bit more than that.” [Texas Standard] Photo: Adam Baker [license]

06/26/17 10:45am

A stolen Dodge Durango was the first car pulled out of Brays Bayou earlier this month as Harris County Flood Control and friends resumed work on removing some of the 100-plus sunken vehicles previously discovered gently rusting below the surface of a few of Houston’s major waterways. (The Nissan Maxima above was next in line.) Last year’s test run of the removal setup snagged a total of 20 cars out of Brays and Sims bayous; the contracts signed earlier this year for a new round of vehicle fishing budget for a catch of around 65 vehicles from the 2 bayous, depending on size and how much of a fight each one puts up. (Texas Equusearch did note back in its 2011 survey that at least one big rig is lurking somewhere in the watery depths, and some of the cars are more filled with mud and debris than others.)

The county says the new car count was up to 13 by the time work crews paused last week to let Cindy pass; a county worker also snapped photos showing off some of the haul, which has so far included a range of more and less easily identifiable makes and models including a Nissan Frontier, a Jaguar, a Ford Mustang, a Ford Bronco, an Eagle Talon, and others:

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2,000-Pounders
05/04/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WILL THE BAYOU CITY PLEASE START ACTING LIKE IT? “Is the new business going to incorporate the bayou, or keep its back turned to it? Would be nice to see the trend continue of businesses along the bayous turning around and accepting the existence of a recreational green belt and trail network in its backyard, rather than using that as the side for the dumpsters.” [Superdave, commenting on Sixties Ex-Dry Cleaning Spot To Be Made Over as a Brays-Side Wine Bar] Photo of Brays Bayou at Stella Link Rd.: Frank Karbarz

05/04/17 1:45pm

Don’t feel like hopping on your bike to see how construction on that northern piece of the White Oak Bayou hike-and-bike trail is coming along? The click-and-drag-able digital map released this week by the Bayou Greenways 2020 folks may be a decent substitute for the real thing (depending on how often it ends up getting updated). Zoom in closer on the map above to check out completed trail sections (outlined in green), under construction spots (traced in dark purple), and areas planned for trail-ification at a later date (highlighted in a purple haze).

Here’s the area around Mason Park (where that double-V suspension bridge is under construction at the moment):

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Green is for Greenway
04/25/17 12:45pm

COULD HARRIS COUNTY SAVE UP SOME FLOODWATER FOR WHEN IT’S REALLY NEEDED? Flooding along S. Braeswood Dr., Meyerland, Houston, 77096Finding a way to stockpile floodwater during years of plenty, commissioner Jack Cagle tells Mihir Zaveri this week, might not only help to make more water available for use during Houston’s drought years. It might also be a way to check the Houston region’s tendency for subsidence (that slow, permanent sinking that can happen when groundwater is pulled out of Houston’s soft clay layers too quickly). Or maybe, Zaveri adds, it could be used to help keep seawater from being sucked into aquifers as fresh water gets sucked out the other side — as long as doing so didn’t accidentally contaminate those same aquifers with junk from the surface. Who knows? Nobody, yet — but the county commissioners have given the $160,000 okay to a study team to shed light on whether it would be possible, feasible, or advisible for Harris County to pump floodwater underground for storage during major storms. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Meyerland flooding on Tax Day 2016: Tamara Fish

04/12/17 4:00pm

9011 Breckenridge Dr., Magnolia, TX, 77354

The 5.38-acre estate at 9011 Breckenridge Dr., taken up in large part by the manufactured lake wrapping 360 degrees around the property’s 6-bedroom main house, is up for sale (with $2,999,900 as the current asking price). Digging on the water feature started around late 2005 and lasted for a few years — seemingly as the large pond next door was starting to get filled in and smoothed over. (That’s the spot where the Estates Woodlands apartment complex has since been constructed, curled loosely around a new, smaller detention pond):

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Moats of Magnolia
03/15/17 1:45pm

Rendering of pedestrian bridge over Brays Bayou at Mason Park

A double-V’d walkin’ and bikin’ bridge like the one shown above will be spanning Brays Bayou before too long, the Houston Parks Board says, linking together the sections of Mason Park separated by the waterway. The agency is planning a short mid-morning party for the planned structure’s construction kickoff next Tuesday, on the southern side of the park (mostly located east of the 75th St. crossing). The whole complex is just downstream of the Gus Wortham Golf Course, for which renovations finally teed off a few weeks ago (trailing much ado a few years back that culminated in the land not getting turned into a botanical garden).

The board says the other, decidedly less suspenseful pedestrian bridge announced earlier this year should be done in the fall as well; that one will will run across Brays alongside the Martin Luther King Blvd. car bridge at the downstream edge of of MacGregor Park, and look kinda like this:

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Double Crossing Brays
03/07/17 11:00am

Tree drama at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002Tree drama at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002

The ongoing saga of the Allen’s Landing trees coming down recently in bits and pieces — apparently the handiwork of an elusive Buffalo Bayou beaver or 2 — has come to a likely end with the non-rodent-assisted removal of the final stumps, Swamplot’s semi-regular Franklin St. correspondent and wildlife tipster notes. But life around the White Oak-Buffalo confluence goes on! Spring is here, which means the ducks have been out and about, while the cranes are busy pulling fledgling parking garage superstructures up into the air:

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Didn’t Leave It To Beavers
02/15/17 4:30pm

glen-forest-detention-site

glen-forest-stormwater-detention-basinJust south of the Earthman Resthaven Funeral Home and Cemetery on I-45 — and just north of Greens Bayou — the Harris County Flood Control District is in the process of digging up more than 2 million cubic feet of soil from the Glen Forest Stormwater Detention Basin-to-be. (That’s the purple shaded area in the map shown here, right upstream from the cluster of bayou-side apartment complexes that flooded on Tax Day and helped spur the pre-dawn conversion of Greenspoint Mall into an emergency shelter.) If the name “Glen Forest” strikes you as a bit mid-century-suburban-neighborhood, that’s because it is: the 160-acre site is named after the sixties-era Glen Forest subdivision formerly constructed on the property. The neighborhood was purchased and demolished as part of HCFCD’s buyout program in the early 2000’s, but the roadways and signs had mostly stuck around, at times serving as a convenient backdrop for unsanctioned motor sports, as demonstrated in the video below:

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Greens- and Grave-side Digging
02/10/17 2:45pm

Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

Those Swamplot commenters who’ve been taking particular and unabashed pleasure in the long, slow demise of the former city code enforcement office at 3300 Main St. may also enjoy the shot above of the flooded pit spotted recently where the Mod office building once stood. Reader Diaspora (who sent in the photo late last week) suggests the site as potential competition for the folks behind the Houston Needs a Swimming Hole campaign, which Kickstartered a feasibility study a few years ago (and also passed around an illustration of an optimistically blue-watered bayouside beachfront, shown below):

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Lakes of Main St.
02/02/17 9:45am

HOUSTON PARKS BOARD RELEASES FLOCK OF BAYOU GREENWAY SIGHTSEEING SUGGESTIONS Bats at Watonga Parkway Park, 4100 Watonga Blvd., Oak Forest, Houston, 77092Not to be left out of the Super Bowl LI frenzy, the Houston Parks Board has been publishing weekly additions to what’s now a list of 51 “super” Bayou Greenways-accessible attractions — ranging in scope and scale from Buffalo Bayou Park to the Orange Show to a pair of nesting eagles somebody spotted near Greens Bayou. The list is broken up by watershed, with each bayou getting a separate map of sites along its existing or planned bike trails (though tour by kayak is also recommended in some places). Other entries on the list include the Watonga Blvd. bridge bat colony (on White Oak Bayou, south of Pinemont Dr., shown here), Parkwood Park in Riverside Terrance (off Brays Bayou and these days billed as Beyoncé’s childhood park), David Adickes’ Mount Rush Hour statue grouping in American Statesman Park (fringing the Downtown confluence tangle of I-10, I-45, and White Oak and Buffalo bayous), and NRG stadium itself, with a nod to the nearby Astrodome. [Houston Parks Board; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Watonga Blvd. bats: Houston Parks Board

01/24/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WATER BORDER PROS AND CONS Find Your Watershed map, 2016“Abolishing arbitrarily-bounded entities with taxing powers like the HCFCD and instead creating entities that are specific to individual watersheds seems like it might make some sense. I do worry that certain areas, especially less affluent ones, would suffer from poor or corrupt leadership; and you can’t simply merge watersheds as the T.E.A. would merge school districts. However, that’d certainly be more democratic and accountable. That’s a trade-off which might be worth making.” [TheNiche, commenting on Group Petitions for 13-County Flood PlanningWatershed boundaries superimposed across Houston-area county boundaries: Galveston Bay Foundation and Houston Area Research Council’s Find Your Watershed map

01/24/17 10:15am

CITY HOPES TO CHOP A DECADE OR 2 OFF THE BRAYS BAYOU FLOOD CONTROL TIMELINE Flooding around The Halstead 4620 N Braeswood Blvd., Meyerland, Houston, 77096 At the current rate of federal funding trickling in for the completion of the Project Brays flood control project, the work could take another 20 years or so to complete, Mike Morris writes this week — noting that the Harris County Flood Control District originally expected about $50 million in federal reimbursement every year, but has been getting an average of $11 million annually in recent years. The city is now planning to speed the project up by asking to borrow $46 million from state-level funds to give to the county, potentially helping it meet or beat a 2021 completion deadline. And “yes,” says city flood czar Steve Costello, “the city is going to be taking [a] risk because we’re going to be waiting for the money, but we’re confident that this is the start of a long-term relationship and we think it’s going to work very well.” (If it does work well, the city may do the same thing for work on White Oak and Hunting bayous.) [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Tax Day flooding at Brays Bayou and 610: Chris Klesch

01/20/17 1:00pm

GROUP PETITIONS FOR 13-COUNTY FLOOD PLANNING Find Your Watershed map, 2016A group called Citizen Solutions to Flooding — not to be confused with the Residents Against Flooding group currently suing the city and TIRZ 17, though containing some of the same members — is circulating a petition calling for a region-wide plan to address man-made flooding issues, and an agency to oversee it. The petition lists out some of the specific technical concerns that signers want incorporated into future flood planning, including a shift from floodplain-level thinking to whole-watershed rules. The petition also calls for coordination across all 13 counties in the Houston-Galveston Area Council region; Citizen and Residents member Ed Browne tells Ed Mayberry that “flooding doesn’t know any boundaries. I mean, water doesn’t care whether you’re in Harris County or Montgomery County or Fort Bend. Unless we address the whole watershed, one area or another is going to suffer.”  [Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Watershed boundaries superimposed across Houston-area county boundaries: Galveston Bay Foundation and Houston Area Research Council’s Find Your Watershed map