08/18/17 12:30pm

The folks fighting a longstanding battle to prevent the reconfiguration of a section of Buffalo Bayou fronting the southeast corner of Memorial Park and the River Oaks Country Club have posted a remarkable series of images showing how a section of the bayou’s bank at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary responded on its own over the course of 2 years to a soil collapse suffered during the 2015 Memorial Day flood. The geologists behind Save Buffalo Bayou claim that the promoters of the Harris County Flood Control District’s proposed $12 million Memorial Park Demonstration Project they’re trying to stop have mistaken a natural bayou-bank process called vertical slumping (or sloughing) for erosion, and that attempting to stabilize the bayou banks to fix the supposed erosion will leave the area “a wasteland of denuded and weakened banks.”

But you don’t have to buy or even follow the riverine logic the organization steps through in a lengthy article posted to its website earlier this week to appreciate one of the examples of waterway-bank adaptation exhibited there. The first image (at top) shows the immediate aftermath of the Memorial Day storm or 2 years ago on the high bluff facing the bayou at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary in Memorial Park, which stands at the downstream end of the proposed project area. According to the organization, an HCFCD consultant claims that this is one of 4 spots within the bayou area that suffers from severe lateral erosion. But to Save Buffalo Bayou, this isn’t erosion; it’s just a slump, which is what bayous do naturally, and which on their own create the distinctive bluffs on the bayou’s banks. There’s no way to fix a slump, the organization’s geologists say — if left alone it’ll restore itself.

Here’s their photo evidence. The second photo, also from June 2015, shows the slumping — and downed trees:

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A Bayou Demonstration Project
08/14/17 12:15pm

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
08/03/17 12:30pm

The current state of the Lockwood Business Park, just inside the northeast corner of Beltway 8, is made evident in the photo above, which was just tweeted out this morning by McCord Development. The Lockwood in the name comes from Lockwood Rd. (not to be confused with another north-south street with industrial cred, Lockwood Dr., which is further to the south and west), visible in the background of the photo. The complex on the other side of that road is the TechnicFMC campus.

Four big buildings are planned for the site at 13300 Lockwood Rd., which was previously covered by trees and other foliage. Three will line Lockwood Rd. and one will sit behind: a 143,500-sq.-ft. warehouse, shop, and office structure that’s already been leased to gasket-and-hose-maker GHX Industrial. Two of the tilt-up structures fronting Lockwood will be flex-warehouse space, and the third (labeled Building C in the illustration below) is intended to be an office building. An expanse of concrete for truck turnarounds will link the other 3 buildings, according to drawings McCord is showing of the site:

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Unlocking Lockwood
07/28/17 12:30pm

BUFFALO BAYOU PARTNERSHIP NOW LOOKING EAST OF DOWNTOWN, MAKING PLANS The landscape architecture firm that rejiggered the grounds of the Menil Collection and has put forward a new plan for Hermann Park will now be turning its attention to Buffalo Bayou east of Downtown, where the waterway widens ahead of the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will lead an effort to create a new master plan for the bayou’s “East Sector” — the section between Hwy. 59 and the Turning Basin — the Buffalo Bayou Partnership announced yesterday. Also on the team of consultants the nonprofit waterway overseers has selected to create the plan: the firm formerly known as Morris Architects, which a few months ago switched its name to that of its parent company, Huitt-Zollars. The partnership says it wants a plan that reflects the cultural and industrial background of the area, that will help connect surrounding neighborhoods to the bayou, and that creates green spaces that can help revitalize that part of Houston. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Buffalo Bayou Partnership

10/28/16 5:30pm

GRASSY KNOLLS, CHILDREN’S SWAMP PART OF POSSIBLE HERMANN PARK PARKING COVERUP Existing Hermann Park MapThis week landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh has been discussing some of his firm’s preliminary designs for the next 20-year master plan for Hermann Park, writes Molly Glentzer this afternoon — including the possibility of turning the park’s central parking area, between Miller Outdoor Theatre and the Houston Zoo, into “a place where children could scamper up a knoll to a creature forest, swings and a marsh,” with parking spaces underneath. Van Valkenburgh says that a few hundred of the 1,300 spaces in the main lots may also be moved to the corner of MacGregor and Cambridge streets, and would also be covered over by ecological and built attractions. Glentzer writes that “along with the forest and marsh, the preliminary drawings for the central knoll include a sensory maze, a desert ruin and a slide bluff. The smaller knoll would have a water play dell.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of existing Hermann Park layout: Hermann Park Conservancy

12/17/15 12:30pm

Sure, drone footage is great. But how often do you get to see 3 flying laboratories survey the breadth of Houston’s sprawl from this high up?

The trio of WB-57s shown surveying a hazy Houston in the video above are based at Ellington Field. The fleet is part of NASA’s WB-57 High Altitude Research Program, which regularly conducts scientific research and testing. Among its missions: mapping, collection of cosmic dust, support of rocket launches, and flights over hurricanes, including recent storms Joaquin and Patricia. Eerie faded-Emerald-City scenes of Downtown, the Galleria, the Med Center, and other vertical standouts unfold beneath the wingtips. The flight, which took place before Thanksgiving (but for which footage was only posted to YouTube this week) marks the first time since the early 1970s that 3 WB-57s have flown together.

Video: Johnson Space Center via Eric Berger

JSC Fleet in Flight
12/04/15 4:45pm

DUTCH MUSEUM EMBRACED BY ITS SWAMPY SURROUNDINGS Meanwhile, in Werkendam: The Biesbosch Museum in the Netherlands now appears to have merged with the extensive wetlands of the surrounding national park, following renovations this summer that blanketed the building’s sloping exterior with grass and herbs. The new vegetation flows directly into the landscape of the Museum’s created island (developed as part of the extensive “Room for the River” initiative, meant to address severe flooding in areas of the low-lying nation).  The Museum’s new exterior creates the illusion that sections of the landscape have been peeled up to form the building’s wedge-shaped exhibition spaces. [Dezeen]

06/08/15 2:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY YOU CAN GET FLOOD INSURANCE IN HOUSTON Flooding Coastal Homes“There is no market at all for flood insurance. It’s a massive federal subsidy that is merely administered by private companies. You can’t effectively insure against floods. This is one of those things many Texans like to ignore — that our coastal development is highly subsidized in the form of the government-backed NFIP.” [JR, commenting on Comment of the Day: A Better Way To Tell If Your Home Is Going to Flood] Illustration: Lulu

06/05/15 12:45pm

AND NOW A DOWNTOWN DANCE PERFORMANCE ABOUT FLOODING Invitations to the latest site-specific performance by the Karen Stokes Dance company went out on May 25th, the day before a good part of Houston woke up to find various areas in and around the city under water. But the company had already been rehearsing its latest work for some time by then. Coincidence, fortunate timing, or simply a local arts group’s demonstration of a level-headed understanding of the Houston landscape? From the team that brought you last year’s by-the-Ship-Channel performance of Channel/1836 now comes Drench, which — as shown in excerpts previewed in the trailer video above — reimagines Discovery Green’s Gateway Fountain as a flood zone. Shows, part of a performance that includes the work of Belgian art group Chanson d’Eau, begin at 8 pm tonight and tomorrow. [Discovery Green; more info] Video: Karen Stokes Dance

05/14/15 4:30pm

Tree Cutting on Yale St. Between 5th and 6th Streets, Houston Heights

Landscape crews last week chopped down 16 live oak trees lining the west side of Yale St. just south of White Oak, along the eastern border of the second of Trammell Crow Residential’s Alexan Heights apartment complexes. A similar scene took place last year in front of the Alexan Heights north of White Oak and 6th St. (at right in the above photo).

A reader sent in pics of the recent street-tree sawfest:

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Chop ’n Plant
05/05/15 12:00pm

Replacement Oak Tree in Front of Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The sixth and last of the replacement street trees was planted in the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. over the weekend. “It is a big specimen tree, taller than what was removed,” writes the reader who sent in these photos of the installation paid for by a special city fund for Houston parks — so we can all see for ourselves. The previous weekend, 5 replacement oaks were put in along the side street, North Blvd. Crews hired by the franchise owner, Mohammed Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, had chopped down 6 trees on adjacent city property last October. You can compare the current scene in these photos and in our story last week with how it all looked before the chainsaws were fired up.

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Regrowth
04/30/15 1:00pm

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonA row of 5 already-growed-up oak trees took up their new home along the North Blvd. flank of the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. last weekend, to replace the same number along the public right-of-way that went missing after dark last Halloween on account of they were chopped into pieces by order of the franchise owner. “The new trees at Wendy’s are so big they had to close the road to install them,” writes the reader who sent in these photos. “. . . almost as big as the ones cut down.

One more tree is still to come — for this spot on Kirby Dr., right in front:

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Fast Landscaping
04/27/15 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THEY WON’T BE LINING POST OAK BLVD. WITH POST OAKS Post Oak Forest“So close! Just imagine how impressive it would be to have a forest of 800 post oaks on Post Oak Blvd. Unfortunately, post oaks don’t tend to transplant well compared to live oaks, which is why we use live oaks in our landscaping instead of post oaks. (Source: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)” [GoogleMaster, commenting on Boxed Forest of 800 Trees in Tomball Preparing for March Down Post Oak Blvd.] Illustration: Lulu