The TIRZ, Parks, and the Texas Constitution

February 27, 2015

Here’s the report from the Feb. 25, 2015, Uptown TIRZ 16 board meeting about when the once-a-boat launch on Buffalo Bayou  in Memorial Park at Woodway might be reopened.

Please note that Texas constitution guarantees the right of the people to access navigable waterways through public land.

The fenced-off Parks and Wildlife Paddling Trail takeout, referred to by the TIRZ as the “Woodway outfall,” is in need of a guardrail above a steep drop-off, parking reserved for the handicapped, and a gate that allows the park area to be closed at night, according to Sarah Newbery, the TIRZ 16 project director for Memorial Park.

The bayou access point on public land west of Loop 610 has been surrounded by a locked, curtained fence and closed to the public without explanation for almost a year since construction and landscaping were completed on the $1.36 million “erosion control” and drainage improvement project. The larger park area, known as the Old Archery Range, has been closed without explanation for nearly a decade.

The Houston Parks and Recreation Department is reviewing plans for the guardrail, parking, and permanent access gate for the former boat launch, Newbery told the board members meeting on the seventeenth floor of 1980 Post Oak in the Galleria. The TIRZ expects to send the plans out to bids in April and to finish construction by August, Newbery reported.

There will be a sign on the site by next week explaining all this to the public, said Newbery.

But why should the public not have access to the bayou through the park now, since there appears to be no legal or even safety reason why this part of the park should not be open in the meantime? The parks department could erect a temporary guardrail above any drop-off it deems dangerous, as it has done in Buffalo Bayou Park. (See photo below.) There’s already a gate and a parking lot.

Newbery referred that question to the director of the parks department.

So we sent an email to Joe Turner, director of the parks department, asking him about that. We also asked why that entire park section west of Loop 610, a forested area with a lovely, natural pool, has been closed to the public for some ten years and why an old asphalt path providing access for boaters to Buffalo Bayou through that scenic, historic area was torn up that many years ago.

Actually this was the second time we have written those questions to the director of the parks department.

As we have pointed out before, it is a violation of state law to take or change the use of public parkland without public notice and a hearing.

The parks department director has not yet answered either of our emails. But a phone call late Friday afternoon to the director’s office reached Erika Madison, Turner’s administrative assistant.

The parks director was not in the office, but Madison assured Save Buffalo Bayou that the director was “usually quick about responding” and that we “should probably get a response by Monday.”

But feel free to contact Parks Director Joe Turner yourself about this:

Temporary guardrail above a giant outfall in Buffalo Bayou Park similar to the outfall in Memorial Park at Woodway.

Temporary guardrail above a giant drainage outfall in Buffalo Bayou Park similar to the outfall in Memorial Park at Woodway. Photo taken Feb. 27, 2015.

2 thoughts on “The TIRZ, Parks, and the Texas Constitution”

  1. olive hershey says:

    Joe Turner should be forthcoming with answers to our questions. Surely he should support public access to public facilities in a public park? We shall hold him to the letter of the law on this! Save Buffalo Bayou!

  2. Daphne Scarbrough says:

    There is not enough park land in the City of Houston, it is very sad that this beautiful, close in section has been shut off from Houston citizens for an afternoon walk or paddle down our beautiful Buffalo Bayou. The hidden pool is a serene, lovely hidden part of Houston that few people get to see. There is a lot of natural wildlife making a home on the Bayou in the middle of a noisy, concrete Houston. A lot of history is living in Buffalo Bayou.

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