February 24, 2015
Is anybody really planning to build handrails or a parking lot to make our $1.36 million once-upon-a-time boat launch in Memorial Park “safe” for the public to use again?
We’ll find out Wednesday, Feb. 25, at the regular meeting of the board of the Uptown Development Authority/ TIRZ 16, which is supposed to be funding further improvements (with our tax money) to the site reconstructed last year on Buffalo Bayou at Woodway. Project planners somehow forgot to include those user-friendly details when they designed the new drainage outfall “erosion control” project, according to the TIRZ and city parks department.
However, the new not-a-boat launch, with its long sloping ramp, looks perfectly usable to a lot of people, despite usually being covered in mud. But the city parks department says no, it’s not safe and the parking isn’t exactly right, so the area remains closed even after construction was completed about a year ago.
The board meeting of the Uptown TIRZ/Development Authority takes place Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in Suite 1700, 1980 Post Oak Boulevard.
An official Texas Parks and Wildlife Paddling Trail takeout, the formerly wooded ravine in what’s known as the Old Archery Range west of Loop 610 has been closed to the public for almost two years while trees were cleared, slopes dug out, and a massive outfall installed. The landscaped, irrigated project, described by the TIRZ as a drainage and “erosion control” project, was completed almost a year ago but the curtained, heavy-duty fence and gate remain locked.
SWA Group did the landscaping and AECOM the engineering design.
The once-a-boat-launch is the closest official public access for paddlers to float down Buffalo Bayou through the historic nature area that the City of Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District plan to destroy. Known as the Memorial Park Demonstration Project, the $6 million proposal to bulldoze the riparian forest, dredge and channelize this relatively untouched stretch of bayou has the support of the Bayou Preservation Association, the Memorial Park Conservancy, and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
This nearly 1.5 mile stretch, which passes between Memorial Park and the Hogg Bird Sanctuary on the north and the River Oaks Country Club on the south, is one of the last relatively natural reaches of the bayou left in the city. Riparian areas are vital for clean water, erosion and stormwater control, and wildlife habitat, and bulldozing riparian zones is exactly the wrong thing for government officials to be demonstrating.
Notice of Wednesday’s Uptown Development Authority board meeting and the agenda were posted on the public bulletin board outside City Hall on Bagby Street. We drove downtown to check it out, since the notice is not posted online. See photos!
The agenda does not refer specifically to the Woodway project, but it does list “an update on Memorial Park.” The TIRZ 16 is spending $1.8 million on the proposed Memorial Park Master Plan and over the next ten to twenty years plans to spend some $150 million in public money on capital improvements to the 1,500-acre, 90-year-old park.
The TIRZ 16 Capital Improvement budget for 2015 does not include anything for the Woodway site. But it does include $9.5 million in 2015 and a total of $23 million from 2015 to 2019 for “Memorial Park/Buffalo Bayou.”
A TIRZ is a tax increment reinvestment zone, usually with a limited life span of thirty years, that has had its appraised property value frozen at the level on the date of creation (1999 in the case of the TIRZ 16). All taxes on the increased value of the property in the zone since that date go not into the city and school district treasury but into the coffers of the TIRZ to spend.
The TIRZ 16 was expanded in 2013 to include Memorial Park and its term extended by eleven years to 2040.