The Latest Tree-Clearing Scheduled for Willow Waterhole

That vague line of pink barely visible low in the forested area just beyond the backyard of this house on Warm Springs Dr. in Post Oak Manor marks a few of the hundreds of trees the Harris County Flood Control District plans to knock down as part of a second phase of work on the easternmost portion of the Willow Waterhole Stormwater Detention Basin complex. Most of the trees slated for removal are in a 5-acre zone to the southeast of Post Oak Manor (outlined at the bottom right of the aerial map below), just north of South Main St. and directly to the southwest of Beren Academy. But the pink line is part of a separate 2-acre strip that’s slated for thinning just south of Post Oak Manor. And that’s got some residents there — and in adjacent ‘W’ neighborhoods Willowbend, Willow Meadows, Willowbrook, and Westbury — upset.


The detention project near the eastern end of Gasmer Dr. in Southwest Houston, part of the $450 million Project Brays flood-reduction effort, is now also a coastal prairie restoration project: Biologists discovered an endangered plant called Texas Prairiedawn in the area, along with some remnants of the native Gulf Coast Prairie habitat. Without that discovery, Flood District officials report, they would have taken out more trees, leaving an even smaller buffer against the neighborhoods — and it all would have been dug up to make more room for stormwater to sit after heavy rains. Instead, to build out 15 acres of coastal prairie, they’ll be clearing out invasive species and leaving a few of the older growth trees for occasional shade.

District officials report 3,000 new trees will be planted in another section of Willow Waterhole this year, on the opposite side of South Post Oak — and a total of 16,800 will be planted throughout the entire project by the time construction is complete. But residents opposed to the way the project is proceeding aren’t eager to see a significant removal of old growth, native trees near their homes in favor of saplings. They’ve arranged a public meeting with Flood District officials tonight, at 7 p.m., at the Gathering Place, at 5310 S. Willow Dr.

Photo: WWH Trees. Aerial Map: Harris County Flood Control District

11 Comment

  • Looking at the two aerial photos, it doesn’t look like any trees were even in the removal zone in 1989 so there can’t be anything older than that growing there now. And it would seem like a good idea to have a hike-n-bike trail from the Willowbrook nabe into the parks but there’s no indication of that.

  • A ground-level view is the best reflection of what is there. Google Map Gasmer @ South Post Oak and then swivel around to see the height and breadth of it. It’s a significant tract of very large trees.

  • The vocal group in the neighborhood is against pretty much any kind of hike/bike park activity/ amenity. They’ve put too much emphasis on the nature preserve aspect of it and anything that would bring people into the park they’re not for.

    I would love to see more bike trials and for the area to figure out how to connect the park to the bike path along Brays Bayou but i don’t see it happening. They neighborhood (well certain people, i live there and i’m not part of this group) fought against a pedestrian path into the park along Windwood Dr. So convincing them to let bikers ride through the neighborhood would be a challenge.

  • Hi Matthew,

    I can’t address any previous discussions about pedestrian traffic concerns as I was not involved in those, but I’ve not seen any discussions about pedestrian traffic with this current issue on the table.

    The concern right now, and the reason I got involved, is that the proposal suggests that the trees will be completely removed vs. selectively thinned, to the point that a significant portion of the neighborhood will lose the privacy and sound barrier of the trees and will instead have a direct line of sight to the industrial pocket, SPO traffic, and the noise from the train intersection at the Main overpass (which is not quiet zoned).

    Part of the allure of our neighborhood (where I’ve lived for 29 years) is that we’ve had a natural insulation from the adjacent industrial sector.

    One would assume that the foundation for the waterhole project in compartment 3 was that it was an established greenspace with drought-resistant forestry.

    It seems at cross purposes to take it down to dirt and start over with saplings that none of us will live to see replace the size of the trees already there.

    We’re asking for consideration of a middle solution that spares the larger trees instead of an “all or nothing” approach.

  • Matthew, there is a master plan for new hike and bike trails and connectors to Brays Bayou. It was done by the Brays oaks management District as part of our parks master plan.
    None of the trails are slated to go through this portion of the Willow Waterhole.
    Of course it all depends on funding and we’re still working on that. On that front, don’t discount the neighbors – they could be useful to getting the planned trails, provided it doesn’t do any perceived damage to their own home or street.

  • Thanks for the link. good stuff.

    I think the neighborhood is pretty divided and from what i’ve seen it’s a generational split. The older generation is more territorial and doesn’t want change while the younger generation wants the connection and the amenities. that’s an over simplified and generalized explanation, but that’s just from the meetings i’ve sat in on and discussion i’ve had with SWA.

    I can understand the tree argument. it does provide a nice visual buffer from equipment dealer and concrete plant. i do with they would extend the quiet zone for the train.

    I’ve lived there for 6 yrs and the park is one of the reasons i moved there other than being down the street from my office. my biggest issue with the park is that they don’t seem to be doing enough to maximize and capitalize on the investment of the park. maybe more will come out through the meetings and i’ll find out more from the report.

  • Matthew: hopefully the Levitt Pavilion will do a lot to energize the Willow waterhole as a park. They’re announcing it at the November 12 SW Houston 2000 breakfast at HBU.
    I certainly see where you’re coming from about the generational divide in Westbury. It’s the same in most of Southwest Houston. One thing I learned as a Super Neighborhood President is that there’s a fine art to getting that older generation on board with things like hike and bike trails, transit, etc. it’s tough and can take a while, but it can be done. At the same time we young folks can learn a thing or two from the older generation about neighborliness, community, and being welcoming.

  • They found Coastal Prairie remnants and an endangered plant; I hold that these finds vastly outweigh any trees that are currently in the area. It seems that the prairie dawn habitat will be enlarged. This is great for the plant. Any problems with this would arise from one’s initial assumptions. 1. You think the Earth and all resources therein are inherently the possessions of humans to do so as we please. 2. You think that the Earth and all resources therein have value in themselves apart from the whims of humanity. If you accept the former then screw the endangered plant because the trees provide YOU more benefit than a flower. If you accept the latter then YAY, for the protection of a very rare piece of the natural world. Trees are everywhere, even native trees, the flower is not everywhere. It just depends on where you stand I guess….

  • I’m 42, which I think puts me on the younger end of the spectrum, but I’ve lived here since high school and I’m third generation to own my home, so my family has been here a while. I’m all for progress, but not at the expense of removing an integral component that makes the neighborhood so desirable. Balance is key.

  • I’ve lived 5+ years in the neighborhood & like Heather consider myself part of the younger generation that wants access via bike/walk trail but agree that balance is key. I wish I could attend the tonight’s meeting but unfortunately, won’t be able to go. :(

  • I agree. My real comments were about the lack of connection and pathways not so much about the trees. I don’t live on that street so the trees don’t affect me as much as a pathway from the neighborhood into the park would.