Upping Our Game

Frustrated with the lack of awareness? Fed up with their deeply misguided plans to destroy the last natural stretch of Buffalo Bayou we have in the city? Angry

The alligator snapping turtle lives in Buffalo Bayou. It is listed as threatened in Texas. Photo by Ashley Tubbs.

The alligator snapping turtle lives in Buffalo Bayou. It is listed as threatened in Texas. Photo by Ashley Tubbs.

that they will bulldoze our riparian forest, kill our wild bayou, sacrifice the natural bayou ecosystem, mutilate our magnificent bluffs, and drive the wildlife away to someplace where they cannot survive.

Worried that after they do all that, their fake, landscaped, rebuilt bayou will all wash out? (You should be.)

Interested in hitting back where it will hurt?

We are contemplating some fun-filled, entertaining, and informative picketing and leafleting at a significant event in the next two weeks. This could involve some creative costumes, bright lights, and cameras. It’s still in the planning stages so if you’d like to help plan, create, and participate, email us at info@savebuffalobayou.org.

Talking to Parks and Wildlife Commissioners and Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle

The high bluff opposite that Jones Nature Center on Spring Creek. The springs on top of this bluff are believed to be the Springs of Santa Rosa, location of villages of the tribe of Canos, an Orcoquisa tribe, one of the least known tribes of North America but mentioned by early Spanish explorers. The bluffs along Spring and Cypress creeks are part of the same Meander Belt Ridges that form bluffs along Buffalo Bayou.

The high bluff opposite the Jones Nature Center on Spring Creek. The springs on top of this bluff are believed to be the Springs of Santa Rosa, location of villages of the tribe of Canos, an Orcoquisa tribe, one of the least known tribes of North America but mentioned by early Spanish explorers. The bluffs along Spring and Cypress creeks are part of the same Meander Belt Ridges that form bluffs along Buffalo Bayou.

What We’ve Been Doing Lately in Defense of Buffalo Bayou

Last week several of us went to the annual public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission held in Houston this year at the Museum of Natural Science. We wanted to urge the commissioners to protect our wild Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park and the wildlife that lives in the bayou and its riparian forest.

We found the commissioners who were present attentive, sympathetic, and even encouraging. These included the Honorable Reed Morian of Houston and the Honorable Dick Scott of Wimberley.

Two days later we visited with Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle during a canoe trip on beautiful Spring Creek in northwest Harris County sponsored by the Bayou Land Conservancy. Commissioner Cagle, a very likable, nature-loving fellow, represents Memorial Park, the River Oaks Country Club, both in the bulldozing project area, as well as points north and west.

Read the rest of this post.

Don Greene, Defender of Buffalo Bayou, Has Died

Don Greene on the water.

Don Greene on the water, c. 2001.

Don Greene has taken his last trip.

Don, beloved and admired by many, was an ardent defender of Buffalo Bayou for more than forty years. He knew its history, geology, and ecology. He was one of Houston’s most dedicated conservationists. Much of what you read here on this website was influenced by Don Greene.

Update Aug. 26, 2014: Read remembrances from Don Greene’s friends in a tribute compiled by Lisa Gray and published today in Gray Matters in the Houston Chronicle.

Don, founder of Whitewater Experience in 1975, educated several generations of people about our bayous and rivers, here in Houston and across Texas and New Mexico and into Mexico.

Just a couple of months ago Don explained the bayou to Channel 13 reporter Ted Oberg in Oberg’s report on the project to bulldoze Buffalo Bayou. You can watch Don on the water with Oberg here.

Here is Don’s obituary in the Houston Chronicle. And watch this slideshow of Don doing what he loved best.

  • Don Greene on the Rio Grande in Big Bend, c. 1976.
  • On the Guadalupe with his Yorkie, Shadow, and friend Cliff Wood, c. 1976.
  • On the road, 1978.
  • Handling the oars in the Grand Canyon, 1981.
  • Don Greene on Buffalo Bayou, c. 2001.
  • On Buffalo Bayou rapids passing Memorial Park in Houston, near the railroad bridge, 2007.
  • Safety instructions before a bayou float trip, British School of Houston, 2007.
  • Don Greene, always safety equipped, right, with fellow bayou activist Frank Salzhandler, on the landscaped banks of Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, 2008.

The Bad Things That Happen When You Strip Forest from the Banks of Bayous

 

We Have Forgotten The Wisdom of Our Predecessors

The early settlers knew better than to cut down the trees and vegetation from the banks of Buffalo Bayou and other streams.

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Erosion control by cutting trees and vegetation and disturbing soil along the banks of Buffalo Bayou as it passes by the Houston Country Club.

Even where they set up sawmills along the bayou in the 1820s and ’30s, the mill owners had the common sense to leave the trees standing along the riverbank to protect the land from erosion, says Janet Wagner, chair of the Harris County Historical Commission.

Before that, says Wagner, the indigenous people who lived and camped along the bayou left the riparian forest intact, understanding its importance for holding the banks in place, cleansing and cooling the waters, slowing storm waters, providing fish and wildlife habitat, and much more.

The Harris County Flood Control District, in a wrongheaded plan promoted by the Bayou Preservation Association and supported by the Memorial Park Conservancy and the City of Houston, is proposing to strip most of the riparian forest buffer from some of the last wild banks of Buffalo Bayou in Houston. Known as the Memorial Park Demonstration Project, the controversial $6 million project is demonstrating to landowners up and down the bayou and elsewhere exactly what they should not do to protect their property. Preservation of riparian zones along waterways is both federal and state policy, but apparently the city and the county have not yet understood that message.

Recently the flood control district announced another misguided restoration” project to strip trees and vegetation from the banks of a tributary of Greens Bayou.

The costly experience of the Houston Country Club ought to be instructive. The club not too long ago bulldozed a significant amount of trees and vegetation from the banks of Buffalo Bayou as it passes by the club golf course in Tanglewood. This was a project designed by the engineering firm AECOM, which also designed the failing “erosion control” project in the former Archery Range in Memorial Park at Woodway. A representative of AECOM sits on the board of the Bayou Preservation Association.

Watch this slide show of the disastrous results of razing riparian forest at the Houston Country Club. The photographs were taken on June 27, 2014, and annotated by geophysicist Richard Hyde, a longtime supporter of Buffalo Bayou.

 

Here is another shocking slide show of  photographs taken almost three months earlier on April 2, 2014, of the same, formerly forested area of the Houston Country Club. (See comparison aerial photos below.) The photos were provided by Evelyn Merz, conservation chair of the Houston Regional Group of the Sierra Club. Note in the photos shown above how much more damage had been done three months later.

The flood control district proposes to bulldoze, dredge, and trample with heavy equipment nearly 1.5 miles of Buffalo Bayou and its banks as it flows between Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary on the north and the River Oaks Country Club on the south. The taxpayers of Houston and Harris County are paying $4 million and the country club $2 million for this project.

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently considering whether to issue a permit for the project to the flood control district.

Buffalo Bayou before it was stripped of forest by the Houston Country Club.

Buffalo Bayou before it was stripped of forest by the Houston Country Club.

Buffalo Bayou after forest was razed along parts of the Houston Country Club golf course.

Buffalo Bayou after forest was razed along parts of the Houston Country Club golf course.