Natural Garden on Buffalo Bayou Mowed Down

Native Landscaping Sadly Cut By Mistake

September 26, 2016

We received some upsetting news Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. The lovely garden planted by Buffalo Bayou on the banks of the outfall/boat launch in Memorial Park at Woodway had been completely mowed down.

Geologist Bill Heins sent us photographs, and the scene was ugly. We’ve been following the evolution of this little patch of paradise in the middle of the city for the past two years. We’ve been learning from the bayou, how it responds and repairs itself, tends to its ecosystem, and we’ve done our best to explain that to others, including our civic and political leaders. Some of these articles can also be found here and here.

Most recently, on Sept. 20, we wrote about the invasion of some non-native Johnsongrass that had shouldered its way in amongst the native amaranth (pigweed), smartweed, sedge, groundcherry and other plants that have such a vital natural function: stabilizing the bank, preparing the sediment for new growth, cleansing the water and providing nourishment for a variety of native birds, butterflies, and insects.

We wondered about the wisdom of cutting these native plants on the eroding steep bank adjacent to Woodway. Not only had clumps of cuttings been left to wash into and pollute the bayou, but the cutting itself undermines the ability of these plants to stabilize the bank. Also it’s ugly. And strangely the invasive Johnsongrass was untouched.

It was ominous but park maintenance crews had never before cut the riparian plants on the lower banks. Alas, it was only a few days later that Heins visited the area and recorded the devastation.

  • Woodway drainage outfall/boat launch in Memorial Park after cutting. Photo Sept. 24, 2016, by Bill Heins.
  • Before mowing: Smartweed and other native plants growing naturally around the Woodway drainage outfall/boat launch. Photo Aug. 4, 2016.
  • Boat launch on Buffalo Bayou at Woodway in Memorial Park after clearing. Photo by Bill Heins, Sept. 24, 2016
  • Before clearing: Looking downstream from boat launch at Woodway on Buffalo Bayou with stand of mixed grasses and reeds, including invasive Johnsongrass, on left. Photo Sept. 10, 2016


A Mistake, Not a Policy

Jay Daniel, director of Memorial Park, wrote in an email Monday, Sept. 26, that he was “as distressed” as we were when he learned “that the crew had mowed the lower terrace of the Woodway outfall.” Daniel works for the Memorial Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit that is now in charge of maintaining the park. The Conservancy has been conducting an “ecological conversion” in the park, focusing on removing invasive trees and vegetation in this area of the park west of Loop 610 known as the Old Archery Range. The maintenance work is supported with $1 million in public funds received annually through the Uptown TIRZ 16 as well as $400,000 from the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, according to Conservancy Executive Director Shellye Arnold.

Daniel wrote: “When they were clearing the access to the bayou on Tuesday morning, I had mentioned that they need to pull up the Johnson Grass. At that time I mentioned that we would likely need to do some maintenance on the lower terrace this winter. This seems to have resulted in some confusion and led to the unfortunate mowing.  I have had many conversations with my team about this to ensure it will not happen again.”

Daniel also reports that the Johnsongrass will be dug up and removed.

In the scale of world events, this is a very small thing. Still, we must defend our small places. Memorial Park, it should be noted, is filled with native wetland plants, being basically a giant boggy wetland. The riparian sedges, grasses, and other plants growing on the bank of Buffalo Bayou will eventually recover and return, we hope.

3 thoughts on “Natural Garden on Buffalo Bayou Mowed Down”

  1. & Mercury retrograde was over! Looks like hell!
    @#$%^&*()_+ …

  2. Arthur Neelley says:

    this is so sad. what a tragedy for this little plot of paradise, now lost. Time will heal this, but will take a while to see it. I hope everyone can learn from and demonstrate why not to make this mistake elsewhere in the future !

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